In order to tack on requirements of work, community engagement, education or volunteerism to Idaho’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is seeking public comment on a draft Section 1115 waiver, which the agency aims to submit as soon as possible after the comment period ends.

The work requirement would be placed on individuals made eligible for Medicaid under the expansion who earn up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, according to the state agency.

The Medicaid expansion was passed overwhelmingly by Idaho voters who approved Proposition 2, which was presented with no restrictions, during the November 2018 General Election. The measure to provide health-care coverage to Idahoans who could not afford medical care on their own “passed in 35 of Idaho’s 44 counties and 29 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts,” according to information from Reclaim Idaho.

During its session earlier this year, the Legislature moved to enforce work requirements among other rules for those who would be covered by the gap insurance. District 9 lawmakers, Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, supported adding the work requirements.

The Legislature outlined several factors in state statute that would exempt an individual from the requirements, according to the Department of Health and Welfare. These exemptions include individuals who are age 19 and younger and age 59 and older; physically or intellectualy unable to work; pregnant, a parent or guardian for a minor or someone with a serious medical exemption; applying for unemployment compensation or Social Security benefits; in a drug or alcohol treatment and rehab program; or eligible for tribal health program services.

However, according to the law, in order to make such a change the government must take public comment into consideration.

As such, the Department of Health and Welfare announced Friday the start of a 30-day public comment period on the work requirements. Idaho residents can submit comments via email or mail until Sept. 22; there will also be an opportunity to comment at two public hearings on Sept. 3 and Sept. 6 in Boise.

“A lot of Idahoans think that sending in a comment won’t make a difference, but this is one of those cases where a federal judge has ruled just the opposite. Not only do public comments matter, the government, by law, is required to consider them,” said Rebecca Schroeder, executive director of Reclaim Idaho, in a news release. “If the government ignores the voices of average Idahoans on this subject, they do so at their peril.”

The proposed effective date for the waiver is Jan. 1, 2020, according to the Department of Health and Welfare.

Similar waivers have been tried in Kentucky, Arkansas and New Hampshire. A federal judge struck down the laws in all three states, according to Reclaim Idaho, citing that “government officials ignored overwhelming opposition to the restrictions.”

Idahoans are under threat of losing coverage said Luke Mayville, Co-Founder of Reclaim Idaho.

“This reckless legislation will not only deny thousands of people healthcare they already qualify for, it will cost Idaho taxpayers millions of dollars to administer,” he said.

This is the second round of restrictions that has been up for public comment. Earlier this year, Idahoans weighed in on a restriction designed to steer people earning between 100-138-percent of the Federal Poverty Level onto costly private insurance even though they qualified for Medicaid Expansion. That restriction is currently under federal review.

Load comments