As a lifelong Idaho Republican, I cried with relief when Idaho voters expanded Medicaid. Having health coverage allows me to finally get care for my arthritis, which currently goes untreated. But now our state legislature is trying to cut back voter-approved Medicaid expansion, and is considering adding work reporting requirements. I’ve worked my whole life, and like many other Idahoans, these cuts to Medicaid jeopardize my ability to get my arthritis treated and stay healthy.
Work reporting requirements are not what Idahoans had in mind when, in bipartisan fashion, we voted by 61 percent to expand Medicaid. We voted for our friends, family and neighbors in the coverage gap to have coverage—not to have it taken away. Reporting requirements are expensive, and will only cause confusion and massive coverage losses for people who critically need care. Take Adrian for example, a 40-year-old who went to fill a prescription shortly after Arkansas implemented work reporting requirements to learn he no longer had Medicaid coverage. Until that point, he was not aware that he had to report his work hours on an ongoing basis to keep his coverage.
Plus, work reporting requirements don’t help promote work. These requirements expand government bureaucracy and prevent hardworking people from getting the care they need to work and take care of themselves and their families. After Adrian couldn’t afford his prescription, his condition flared up—and he was ultimately fired from his job when he wasn’t healthy enough to come to work. The truth is, many jobs today are not 9-5 and don’t come with benefits like health insurance. I understand this firsthand. I work retail, and the number of hours that I work isn’t always up to me. I’m hardworking, but I will lose health coverage if my employer doesn’t schedule enough hours for me to meet the arbitrary work reporting requirements. Without insurance, I’ll be unable to afford treatment, which is going to affect my ability to work. This possibility is terrifying.
Reporting requirements undermine what Medicaid expansion was supposed to do and what we voted for: to provide coverage to hardworking Idahoans. Instead, they create an expensive bureaucratic system of monitoring that will drive more eligible people to lose their health coverage. Some people will lose coverage because they work more hours one week than they will the next, others because of a mistake on the mountains of paperwork that may get caught in the shuffle of red tape.
We need to rise above politics to do what’s right for our residents. The public comment period is open until Sept. 22. Public hearings will be in Boise from 1-3 p.m. Sept. 3 in the Lincoln Auditorium, Idaho Capitol Building and on the Sept. 6 in the Joe R. Williams Building. You can also call in over the phone to 1-877-820-7831, 301388#. Or submit your comment to closethegapidaho.org/take-action/take-email-action/.
I call on every citizen of Idaho to have your voice heard and submit a public comment on these restrictions to Medicaid expansion.
Joyce Witzel is a resident of Kuna, Idaho.