Legislation that would require the state’s Medicaid recipients work, train, volunteer or attend substance abuse treatment in order to keep their health care was killed Wednesday evening after the House Rules Committee moved it to its inactive calendar.
House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, made a motion to move the bill during a Rules Committee meeting following the regular House floor session. The committee approved the motion on a voice vote with no discussion.
Later that evening the House reconvened and passed a controversial bill that would allow guns on college campuses. The House did not again take up House Bill 3136 for a vote, which it would have had to do before midnight in order to revive it.
The bill would have required all “able-bodied” people, with some exceptions, to work, train, volunteer or be in a substance abuse treatment program for at least 20 hours each week in order to receive Medicaid benefits.
The Department of Health and Human Resources would have to apply to the federal government for a waiver for the work requirements.
So far only two states, Arkansas and Indiana, have implemented work requirement waivers, out of the 15 states that have applied for them, according to the Kaiser Family Health Foundation.
Arkansas’ Medicaid program reportedly lost more than 18,000 recipients when it implemented its waiver. That state also reportedly had $7.5 million in startup costs and saw 7,000 people get employed.
Democrats Isaac Sponaugle of Pendleton County, Larry Rowe of Kanawha County, and Lisa Zukoff of Marshall County spoke in opposition to the bill before it was moved to the bottom of the agenda and then off the active calendar Wednesday afternoon.
Sponaugle said the bill would not make people work.
“The problem is you’re not going to change the behavior of anybody on Medicaid,” he said. “You’re going to hurt doctors.”
Federal law requires Medicare-receiving hospitals provide emergency services regardless of a person’s ability to pay.
“We have 67 hospitals in the state of West Virginia,” Sponaugle said. “They don’t have any health insurance, they’re not on Medicaid. They have to treat them. Who gets stuck with the bill?”
Rowe took issue with bill supporters who compared the Medicaid work requirements to the food stamp work requirements the state imposed late last year.
“That’s a hundred and some dollars a month,” Rowe said of food stamps. “Most people in some way can survive. Health care is life or death and there’s some very fundamental questions that were unanswered in the bill and were not answered by DHHR.”
Rowe said DHHR would have to evaluate work records for 159,000 people once a month to determine if they’re eligible for Medicaid.
“This is an incredible administrative nightmare that is being foisted on DHHR,” Rowe said.