Bill establishing Medicaid restrictions signed into law

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Despite concerns about potential court challenges, Gov. Brad Little signed into law a bill placing additional restrictions on Idaho’s expanded Medicaid access. 

The bill mandates that Idahoans seeking to benefit from Medicaid satisfy additional requirements. These include a substance abuse assessment, work or education enrollment requirements, restrictions on family planning services from anyone other than a primary care doctor and more. 

“I … strongly support the goal to incentivize unemployed and underemployed individuals to engage in work and training opportunities to build financial stability,” wrote Little in his signing letter. “We must encourage self-sufficiency among those receiving public assistance.”  

The bill comes on the heels of a court decision blocking Kansas and Arkansas from implementing or continuing  similar work requirements. In late March, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the requirements were “arbitrary and capricious because it did not address … how the project would implicate the ‘core’ objective of Medicaid: the provision of medical coverage to the needy.”

In his signing letter, Little expressed reservations about the new law’s court vulnerability. 

“I have concerns regarding the work and training reporting requirements in this bill,” he wrote. “Similar requirements have resulted in costly lawsuits and were recently struck down in federal courts.” 

While the law is welcome news for conservatives aiming to discourage a dependency  on public assistance, it’s a disappointment for Medicaid expansion supporters who called for unaltered implementation. Saying that the additional requirements will place an unnecessary burden on Idahoans and result in additional costs to the state, Reclaim Idaho Executive Director Rebecca Schroeder called the law a step backward after Medicaid expansion passed last year with 61-percent approval. 

“Every Idahoan who voted to bring Medicaid Expansion to our state should be proud of what they did. Our legislature should not be,” she said in a statement. “Furthermore, we are profoundly disappointed that Governor Little decided to sign this harmful and expensive legislation. Taxpayers are now on the hook for a multi-million dollar bureaucracy that could deny healthcare coverage to thousands of Idahoans. This legislation is nowhere near the ‘Idaho Way’ the governor promised.” 

With the legislature and governor’s office set on Idaho’s approach to Medicaid expansion, the ball is now in the court of state departments to work out a deal with the federal government. 

 “The negotiations with the federal government will be challenging, but I have confidence in my directors of the Department of Health and Welfare and the Department of Insurance and their ability to work with our federal partners and pursue the waiver required to implement this approach,” Little wrote in his signing letter. 

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