Groups speak out against Medicaid work bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill in the House of Delegates that would result in work requirements for people on Medicaid has sparked much debate.

Groups in the state are coming out against HB 3136, that originated in the House Finance Committee last week.

Kat Stoll

“It will cost us millions in administrative costs,” Kat Stoll, the director of Health Policy at West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare said on Monday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline.’ “It’s going to cost us millions in lost federal dollars in support of our economy and it’s going to hurt our families, our hospitals and rural providers.”

West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, West Virginians Together for Medicaid and the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy held a news conference Monday afternoon at the capitol to speak against the bill.

Stoll, who is also the director of West Virginia Together for Medicaid, added that she was concerned by the irregular process of the bill because there was no chance for public input or hearings. The deadlines for individual members of the W.Va. Legislature to introduce a bill and for bills to get out of committee have passed.

The passage of the bill would add language to the West Virginia Code directing the State Department of Health & Human Resources (DHHR) to apply for a federal waiver to implement Medicaid Work Requirements. HB 3136 proposes requiring able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid benefits to participate in work, education or a volunteer program at least 20 hours a week.

Stoll said she expects tens of thousands of folks to lose coverage if the bill goes through and individuals don’t move out of poverty or into jobs. She calls it a “paperwork burden.”

“It doesn’t help provide new jobs, it doesn’t help build education and training skills in our Medicaid enrollees,” Stoll said. “It simply helps knock people off coverage. We are with both parties, the Republicans and Democrats, the goal of moving people into jobs and out of poverty. This bill does not do that.”

A handful of other states currently have a work requirement including Arkansas and Kentucky along with other states that are set to begin. In Arkansas, more than 18,000 disenrolled from Medicaid when work requirements went into effect. Stoll said on MetroNews ‘Talkline’ that while there is no fiscal note on the bill, work requirement may cost Kentucky around $187 million. Both of those state’s work requirement programs have gone through federal court to be challenged.

According to Stoll, around 630,000 individuals in West Virginia were enrolled in Medicaid at some point in the fiscal year of 2018. The DHHR said in a tweet as of Monday, 159,212 West Virginians are enrolled in Medicaid Expansion.

“The bill will cost us literally millions of dollars to administer it and track what people are doing,” she said. “That money could be invested in education and training programs.

“We all want to see people on Medicaid move off Medicaid. If they are able bodied and they can work, we want to see them do that. Creating a bill that says you must work or lose your health insurance, does not help people work.”

Stoll was adamant about Medicaid enrollees receiving education and having training programs instead of work training programs that are in the bill. She said one of the next steps would be to help enrollees transition out of Medicaid use and into that new job.

“If you move into a lower wage job that might knock you right off of income eligibility, how can we help you transition by allowing you to keep your Medicaid program,” Stoll suggested.

The bill, sponsored by House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, was on second reading in the House Monday.

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