Alaska Senate Approves Work Requirements for Medicaid Recipients
May 03, 2018
SB 193 , sponsored by Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), requires eligible Medicaid recipients to work, enroll in educational or training programs, volunteer, or engage in subsistence activities, for a minimum of 20 hours each week.
“This bill establishes a simple policy: If you can work and you’re receiving benefits, then you should work,” said Sen. Kelly. “If you can’t work, we understand, and you get a pass. For those who are finding it difficult to find a job, you can volunteer. The important thing is that you join the community of people who contribute every day to making Alaska a better place.”
On January 11, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a new policy designed to assist states in improving Medicaid enrollee health and well-being through work and community engagement incentives under section 1115 of the Social Security Act. SB 193 takes advantage of the new policy by directing the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to apply for a section 1115 waiver to establish work requirements for eligible adults.
“219,000, or nearly one-third of all Alaskans, are receiving Medicaid services at an average cost of nearly $12,000 each,” said Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna). “77 percent of Alaskans support Medicaid work requirements and able-bodied, working age adults have begun crowding out services for the most-vulnerable seniors and the disabled. This bill is about ‘teaching a man to fish.’ It’s about helping Alaskans succeed by reaching their full potential through a reasonable transition from dependence on government to productivity and fulfillment. The two-part process will identify gaps to employment, such as opportunity and training, and help Alaskans break the cycle so that they can realize their dreams through meaningful employment and other ways of improving personal success.”
Those exempted from the work requirement include but are not limited to Medicaid recipients who are under 18 or over 65 years of age, unable to work for medical reasons, pregnant, the parent or caretaker of a child with disabilities, a victim of domestic violence, or currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits. For a full list of exemptions click here .
Four Senate Democrats voting 'no' released prepared statements following the passage of SB 193, the Medicaid Work requirements.
"The intent language asks for a report identifying barriers to employment, but the clock starts ticking even before that report is available. Our priority should be stabilizing Alaska's economy so that people can find jobs and take care of themselves. This bill puts the cart before the horse, assuming people do not want to work, but it comes when we have the highest unemployment rate in the nation. This is in part at least because of the Senate's failure to pass a stable, sustainable fiscal plan." said Senate Democratic Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage).
"This bill is neither fiscally conservative nor fiscally responsible. It was estimated to cost $79 million in general funds over six years. It will cost us $175 million in lost federal dollars and grow government by 51 state employees. It will also cost tens of thousands of Alaskans their health insurance." said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage).
"In the communities I represent, we do not have the same type of volunteer and employment opportunities that larger areas do. Thousands of my constituents would be unnecessarily burdened with bureaucratic paperwork, while sustaining themselves through subsistence, just trying to make ends meet to get through the harsh winters," said Senator Donald Olson (D-Golovin).
"We don't need to blow millions on this new program. We've closed a third of our local job centers that put Alaskans to work - if somebody finds spare money, let's re-open those and actually put people in jobs or training," said Senator Dennis Egan (D-Juneau).
According to the Alaska Senate Majority (Republicans), the legislation also does not prevent a recipient with a substance abuse disorder from obtaining appropriate treatment.
SB 193 passed the Alaska Senate by a vote of 14 to 4. On this the 108th day of what is to be a 90 day legislative session, SB 193 is now on its way to the Alaska House of Representatives for consideration.
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Reporting and Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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