A familiar health program known as work requirements will be returning in the upcoming legislative session after Utahns’ voted to fully expand Medicaid in November.
Work requirements are the rules that say if an individual gets low-income health insurance through the state’s Medicaid program, they also have to fulfill a requirement like taking classes, doing job training or volunteering.
“You either have to be employed or you have to be looking for work, or preparing yourself so that you’re qualified to go to work if you are able,” said Utah State Senator Allen Christensen, R-Ogden.
The hard-fought effort to pass a work requirements bill during the 2018 legislative session became irrelevant after voters passed the Proposition 3 ballot initiative to fully expand Medicaid.
Christensen is bringing the proposal back during the 2019 session.
Republicans like Christensen see work requirements as a way to help people on Medicaid get off state assistance and become employed.
But health care advocate Stacy Stanford of the Utah Health Policy Project says work requirements are a barrier to helping people improve their situations.
“We don’t need a work requirement. Medicaid expansion is the tool that is going to help people find employment,” Stanford said.
Stanford said these rules create bureaucratic reporting requirements that lead to people being kicked off their health care.
Arkansas is the first state to show the results of their work requirement program. A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows 17,000 people lost their health insurance as a result of the work requirement program there.
The Utah Department of Health submitted a proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in June of 2018 based on a more limited Medicaid expansion, but the federal health agency had not yet made a decision on the state’s request.
According to Utah Medicaid Director Nate Checketts, the health department would have to update their proposal based on the new, larger population covered under Proposition 3, as well as the upcoming legislation from Senator Christensen.
Of the 150,000 Utahns newly eligible for Medicaid, Christensen said about 30,000-40,000 would likely be subject to work requirements