Idaho lawmakers delay vote on Medicaid work requirements

A panel of Idaho lawmakers has delayed voting on a bill that would add work requirements to the voter-approved Medicaid expansion initiative after hearing testimony from dozens of people who oppose the legislation.

Of the 51 people to testify over three hours before the House health and Welfare Committee on Friday, 49 were against the bill. Critics cited additional administrative costs, the difficulty that rural residents could face in finding work training and job opportunities, and the potential that thousands would be left without access to health care.

Only one person spoke in favor — a lobbyist with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a group that earlier this year lost a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Medicaid voter initiative.

Bill sponsor, Republican Representative John Vander Woude, of Nampa, said the goal is to help people become less dependent on government programs. He says the work requirement would affect about 13,000 people, and would largely align with work requirements already in place in the food stamp program. People caring for children younger than 18 would be exempt, as would other caretakers or those with disabilities.

Some, including Representatives Sue Chew of Boise and Muffy Davis of Ketchum, both Democrats, raised concerns that residents of rural areas or people dealing with sudden illnesses would be left in a new health care gap, unable to work, and thus unable to receive Medicaid.

It is not clear when the committee will vote on the proposal.

The Medicaid expansion initiative that passed with over 60 percent voter approval did not include any work requirements. (AP)