New Hampshire weakens Medicaid work rules and extends deadline

By | July 8, 2019

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law Monday that delays requiring certain Medicaid beneficiaries in the state work or train for work as a condition of staying enrolled in the program.

The requirements had just taken effect June 1, stipulating that recipients must work, go to school, or volunteer for at least 100 hours a month if they want to stay on Medicaid, which is a state and federal program that covers healthcare at no cost to patients. But just over a month into the program, nearly 18,000 people in New Hampshire hadn’t reported their employment or asked for an exemption, according to the state’s health department.

Efforts to reach out to beneficiaries and let them know about the program were falling short, and under the state’s rules people would have had only one more month to record their hours before being kicked off of coverage. The bill signed into law Monday will suspend the enforcement of the program until September 2019, which will allow state workers to contact more Medicaid beneficiaries so they’re aware that the rules are in place.

The bill that Sununu, a Republican, signed into law Monday also would reduce the requirements to 80 hours a month and throw out the work requirements if more than 500 people were to lose coverage. When the requirement does go into effect, it will apply to 25,000 people.

The delay is happening just as New Hampshire was set to go to court July 23 to defend the rules. As in other states, opponents filed suit saying that the requirements were in violation of the law. Under Obamacare, states were allowed to expand Medicaid to people making less than roughly $ 17,000 a year, regardless of whether they worked or had a disability.

In March, a federal judge blocked the work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas, the latter of which had similar difficulties getting the word out about the program to recipients. In 2018 in Arkansas, more than 17,000 people lost Medicaid because of the requirements.

The Trump administration has encouraged states to ask for work requirements, saying that Medicaid should serve as a program that helps move people out of poverty. Officials from the administration have said that government coverage should not extend to adults capable of work and instead should be limited to the most vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, children, and older adults who need specialized care.