In order to receive health care under Iowa’s Medicaid program, thousands of Iowans would need to meet volunteer or work requirements if a current bill were to become law.
Medicaid currently helps 650,000 poor and disabled Iowans. Senate File 2366 would require able-bodied people to participate in a work program, comply with the PROMISE JOBS program or volunteer at least 20 hours a week.
This bill includes exceptions for individuals that are:
A caregiver of a child under 6 years old, a child that is dependent on a caregiver or an elderly person.
Enrolled in an educational institution
Seeking drug addiction or alcohol treatment rehabilitation
And other exemptions based on education, childcare, rehabilitation and others
Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said the bill will encourage contributing back to the community.
“Iowa has had one of the lowest unemployment levels for over two years. If we are ever going to help those caught in a cycle of dependency to better their lives, this is it,” Schultz said. “I believe if 100 percent of taxpayers have to work to fund the program, then we can ask for 100 percent of the able-bodied recipients to do something to contribute back to their community.”
Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said individuals that think the bill is encouraging giving back to the community are “sadly mistaken.”
“That is a false allegation,” Jochum said.
Jochum said bills regarding Medicaid work requirements have failed in many states and have led to lawsuits.
“This is an administrative nightmare,” Jochum said.
Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, said this bill may not be approved by courts.
“If Iowa is like any other state, it will be challenged legally,” Boulton said.
Kentucky ended a Medicaid work requirement program last year that had been embroiled in lawsuits.
Schultz said the challenges other states are seeing are due to challenges in procedures rather than the work requirements.
“Other states have had challenges filed by opponents of the new work requirements," Schultz said. "The rulings were not so much setting aside the work requirements, they found fault in the procedure used to grant the waivers from the federal government to the state. These were rulings on technicalities, not the policy."
Jochum said the bill doesn’t do anything to address the poor and the focus should be on improving childcare, transportation and other problems.
“This to me is just a mean spirited way to go after people that are poor,” Jochum said. “It’s a bill that is designed to punish people that are living by the rules but aren't quite making it.”
Boulton said a focus on childcare, a increase of the minimum wage and other services would be more beneficial than this bill.
“There’s too many reasons not to support this,” Boulton said. “There’s many different things Iowa can do to be a better partner to the poor.”
If the bill were to also pass the House and were signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, the bill would come into effect in the new year.