BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Draft legislation involving voter-approved Medicaid expansion in Idaho would require recipients to meet employment requirements similar to those for the state’s food assistance program.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Republican Rep. Bryan Zollinger is seeking co-sponsors for the legislation.
Zollinger said Wednesday that whether the legislation gets introduced depends on the outcome of negotiations going on informally. He said participants include the governor’s office, other representatives and senators.
“If everybody can agree on an overall solution, I don’t think that I would introduce that,” he said. “I would introduce it as soon as I know we’re not going to have a joint agreement between the chambers.”
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The draft legislation would require people in the Medicaid program to either work or undergo pre-employment training, requirements similar to those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or food stamps, program. If lawmakers do reach an agreement, he said, it could include some elements of the draft legislation.
Idaho isn’t the first state where added recipient requirements have been considered. Utah passed sweeping changes to a voter-approved Medicaid expansion earlier this month, cutting the number of people covered nearly in half and adding work requirements that the Trump administration is expected to approve.
The initiative expanding Medicaid in Idaho passed in November with 61 percent of the vote after years of inaction by the Idaho Legislature. The voter-approved law doesn’t include work or training requirements.
Democratic House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding noted he’s not among the group of lawmakers meeting to discuss Medicaid expansion, and he hopes the draft legislation doesn’t get introduced.
“In general, what they’re asking for is a very, very expensive tool that will do very little to improve the health of Idahoans and is likely to create an expense that we can’t afford,” Erpelding said.
Those who oppose Medicaid expansion in Idaho say it could be unaffordable.
The expansion will provide access to preventative health care services for about 91,000 low-income Idaho residents, according to a risk management company hired by the state. The federal government would cover 90 percent of the estimated $400 million cost.
The draft legislation doesn’t appear to differentiate between the expansion and those already on Medicaid.
“I would be extraordinarily concerned with that,” said Erpelding, noting he had seen the draft for only a few minutes.
On related fronts, the Legislature’s budget committee on Wednesday approved a budget for Medicaid that includes the expansion. But it still has to pass the House and Senate.
Last week, the House Health and Welfare Committee killed two pieces of legislation intended to repeal Medicaid expansion.
And a Senate panel earlier this month voted to hold a hearing to drop Medicaid expansion if the federal government reduces the percentage it pays for the program. That hearing hasn’t yet been held.
Also this month, the state Supreme Court upheld the voter-approved initiative following a challenge from a conservative group that argued it was unconstitutional.