Montana Public Radio

Health Department: Medicaid Expansion Work Requirements Won't Take Effect In January

Nov 7, 2019

Officials say it could take more than a year to add new "community engagement" requirements to the state’s Medicaid expansion.

Montana is awaiting federal approval for its plan to require some low-income adults to work for health coverage.

When state lawmakers voted earlier this year to continue the health coverage policy they added requirements for some people on the program to work or do so-called community engagement activities for at least 80 hours a month.

The new state law said those work requirements would be effective in January 2020, contingent on the federal government signing off on the plan. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said Thursday that timeline won’t happen. The department says the process of adding the requirements to the program could take more than a year.

More than 8 percent of the state population gets health coverage through expanded Medicaid.

Montana health officials project between 4 and 12 percent of people enrolled in Medicaid expansion could lose coverage for failing to meet the work requirement.

The department says it will mail letters and make phone calls to every Montanan enrolled in Medicaid expansion to tell them before the requirements take effect.

The work requirements were added to Montana’s Medicaid expansion in a political compromise between Democrats and Republicans to keep the health coverage program going. The policy narrowly passed out of the Legislature.

A federal judge has blocked similar work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire. But Montana’s new state law requires the state health department to press ahead with the policy here.

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