2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Iowa Medicaid work requirement bill faces dead end

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A state senator’s proposals to tie work requirements and other stipulations to Iowans receiving taxpayer-funded health insurance have run into myriad roadblocks over the past few days.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, introduced proposals to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer at least 20 hours per week, to be making an effort to pay their child support, and for the state to more frequently verify Medicaid recipients’ eligibility.

But a federal court on Wednesday struck down Medicaid work requirement laws in Kentucky and Arkansas, and on Thursday a procedural move from Iowa Democratic lawmakers requesting more information delayed debate and a vote on Schultz’s oversight proposal.

But perhaps the biggest roadblock was laid down Thursday by Schultz’s colleague in the Iowa House, Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, who said the House will not consider any of the proposals this year, effectively ending the possibility of any of them becoming law in 2019.

“It’s not that we’re against making sure that there isn’t fraud in the state,” said Lundgren, who leads the House’s health care committee. “It’s just that we want to do it mindfully where we are not hurting people that certainly do need the assistance (and) we are appropriately catching the people that are taking advantage of the system.”

Lundgren said she is not philosophically opposed to the proposals but feels they need to be better vetted. She said she wants to talk to state agencies that investigate Medicaid fraud and get data to better understand how many individuals the legislation would impact.

“If we’re going to do something, let’s be pragmatic about it and make sure that it actually does something and it helps the departments that are trying to right the fraud in the state of Iowa,” Lundgren said.

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Before his oversight proposal was shelved by Democrats’ procedural move during debate Thursday, Schultz defended his legislation from accusations that it would cost too much in taxpayer-funded resources — each proposal was projected to cost in the millions of dollars, according to the state’s nonpartisan fiscal and legal agency.

“I’m answering the demands of the people of Iowa who want to know their hardworking tax dollars are going where they’re supposed to go and they’re not just being treated as a basic commodity handed out to whomever applies,” Schultz said.

Lundgren said it’s possible Republicans could, after gathering more information, decide to address the subject again during next year’s legislative session.

“This isn’t a closed door on these issues in Iowa,” Lundgren said. “We just need to be really thoughtful about how we address it and we need to actually see there is a need to address it.”

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