A federal court’s ruling on Medicaid work requirements threw Idaho lawmakers for a loop — coming in the middle of a hearing Wednesday afternoon on that very topic.

Sponsored by Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, Idaho House Bill 277 adds “sideboards” to the voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Vander Woude’s bill passed the House with support from most Republicans.

The bill requires low-income adults to work, volunteer or participate in job training as a condition of getting Medicaid. It carves out exemptions for several groups — parents, caregivers, people with disabilities, college students and others.

The Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee had just spent two hours hearing from people with opinions on the bill.

Then, the news broke.

“A federal judge blocked Medicaid work requirements in two states on Wednesday, dealing a blow to one of the Trump administration’s marquee efforts to push the poor toward self-sufficiency,” the Associated Press reported.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg in Washington, D.C., found that Medicaid work requirements for low-income people in Arkansas were “arbitrary and capricious because [they] did not address … whether and how the project would implicate the ‘core’ objective of Medicaid: the provision of medical coverage to the needy.”


He had similar criticisms of Kentucky’s work requirements, which haven’t yet been implemented.

Back in Idaho, the Senate Committee was informed of the court ruling. Members started asking questions: What does this mean for Idaho? Are the work requirement rules in HB 277 similar to those in Arkansas and Kentucky’s laws? How similar?

After talking about the court’s ruling and the questions it raises for Idaho’s proposal, the committee voted 7-2 to hold the bill.


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