Wyoming Lawmakers Advance Bill Establishing Medicaid Work Requirements

A cashier, left, makes a sale to Nicholas Scott, of Chicopee, Mass., right, at the Pride Station & Store, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Chicopee, where the winning ticket for the Powerball was sold. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne
KATHERINE RODRIGUEZ

A Wyoming bill requiring Medicaid recipients to work a set number of hours per week to receive benefits moved forward Friday in the state House.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the state House by a slim margin despite it being destined for failure moments before the vote, would require all “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients who are not disabled or are caretakers for children under six years old to work at least 20 hours a week to receive benefits, the Casper Star Tribune reported.

A similar bill proposed in 2018 passed the state Senate but died in the state House, according to the Tribune.

Approximately 60,000 Wyoming residents receive Medicaid, according to the state’s Department of Health.

But despite the large number of people on Medicaid in the state, Republicans say only a fraction of Medicaid recipients— about 2,000 to 3,000— would be affected by the legislation.

“The number of able-bodied adults we’re targeting here is relatively small,” Rep. Scott Clem (R) told the Tribune.

The legislation already passed the state Senate and has to pass two more votes in the state House before it goes to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for approval. Gordon, a Republican, has opposed proposals expanding Medicaid, Wyoming News reported.

Some advocacy groups said they are concerned about provisions within the bill that would prohibit residents who fail to meet the work requirements from receiving Medicaid benefits for six months.

“I have real concerns about creating new bureaucratic hoops to jump through for people who are already struggling,” said Chris Merrill, executive director for the Equality State Policy Center. “If they screw up and don’t navigate the bureaucracy correctly, they’re locked out from Medicaid coverage for six months, according to the bill.”

“If you’re in treatment for cancer— and half the people in Wyoming with cancer go out-of-state for treatment— and you’re there for a considerable amount of time, you may not even know you need to turn in that paperwork (that’s needed for benefits),” said Jason Mincer, who represents the Cancer Action Network.

State lawmakers across the country are proposing legislation requiring residents to work a designated amount of time to receive Medicaid after the Trump administration announced in 2018 that states would be allowed to design programs enforcing work requirements to receive Medicaid benefits.

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