MTPR

Montanans Express Concerns Over New Medicaid Work Requirements

Aug 1, 2019

Plans to tie work requirements to next year’s Medicaid expansion are worrying some of the state’s Medicaid recipients, and they used Thursday’s public meeting in Helena to let state officials know.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is drafting rules for new work requirements for some Medicaid recipients. The requirements were part of a compromise passed by lawmakers this spring when a handful of Republicans joined Democrats to continue expansion past its previous expiration date of July 1, 2019.

Changes include increased scrutiny for Medicaid eligibility, elimination of the program’s current co-pays, and an 80 hour per month requirement for work or "community engagement." There will also be increased premiums for people staying on Medicaid expansion longer than two years.

Today’s public meeting focused on the proposed new rules meant to administer those changes. Around a dozen people expressed concern or uncertainty about the impacts of work requirements and rising premiums.

Rebecca Johnson, from Montana City, said her adult son uses expanded Medicaid.

“You must realize that some people struggle with their intellectual disabilities to a point where they find paperwork or the task of understanding program requirements so difficult that they walk away,” Johnson said. “They jeopardize their critical medical care, which helps stabilize their illness.”

New analysis released by DPHHS suggests the number of people subject to the new requirements could be three times what was expected when lawmakers passed the Medicaid expansion law this spring.

The department said it is moving forward with the theory that work and community engagement requirements will help people earn more money, improve their health and ultimately get them off Medicaid and onto private health coverage.

DPHHS plans to submit its new Medicaid expansion plan to the federal government for approval Aug. 30. Public comment is open until Aug. 23.