Alaska state lawmakers look to impose Medicaid work requirements

Alaska state lawmakers look to impose Medicaid work requirements
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Lawmakers in the Alaska Legislature have introduced bills that would require the state to seek work requirements for those enrolled in Medicaid.

The bills follow the Trump administration's decision earlier this year to allow states to seek such requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries.

The legislation was introduced earlier this week in the Alaska Senate and last Friday in the state House.

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It requires the state to craft a waiver asking the federal government for permission to implement a 20 hour per week requirement that Medicaid beneficiaries are working, looking for a job, participating in educational or training programs, volunteering or other such activities.

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance for states on designing work requirements in Medicaid, marking a major change for the health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans. So far, the Trump administration has approved two such policies in Indiana and Kentucky. At least eight other states have work requirement waivers pending.

Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services “continues to analyze the new federal guidance,” its spokesperson, Katie Marquette, wrote in an email. She noted that the majority of the Alaskans enrolled in Medicaid are children, retirees, disabled individuals or are in working households.

“The department will work with lawmakers to identify the federal requirements and the impacts of implementing such a proposal,” Marquette wrote.

Work requirements have typically been pushed by Republicans. Democrats have blasted them as a measure designed to kick people off of Medicaid.

The Trump administration has defended the decision, saying that having a job improves people’s health.

Alaska’s Legislature is divided, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate.

Senate President Pete Kelly (R), one of the sponsors of the bill, told The Associated Press work requirements should be viewed as a “privilege” and not as a punishment. The House bill was sent to three committees, which, according the AP, suggests it could face a challenge in advancing.  

Alaska’s independent governor, Bill Walker, expanded Medicaid in the state in 2015 under an executive order.