September 21. 2017 7:50PM

DHHS gets input on work requirement amendment

New Hampshire Union Leader

CONCORD — The state Department of Health and Human Services held a public input session Thursday on an amendment that would impose a work requirement for eligibility in the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

It was the second of three forums the state is holding to allow residents to ask questions and voice concerns over the requirement, which was added in an amendment to the two-year budget signed by Gov. Chris Sununu in June.

Under the amendment, newly eligible adults would need to demonstrate to the state that they were working or meeting a combination of other requirements in order to receive benefits under the New Hampshire Health Protection Program.

Questions during the one-hour session at the DHHS auditorium focused on the measure itself, which was passed by the Legislature, and how the state plans to implement it by April 30, 2018.

“This is the opportunity for folks to weigh in. I don’t know that everyone realizes the full extent of the potential impact,” said Dawn McKinney, policy director for New Hampshire Legal Aid who was among about 15 people to attend the forum.

HB 517 is the latest effort passed by the Legislature to install a work provision, which would require a federal waiver. Under the bill, newly eligible adults would need to demonstrate to the state that they are engaging in work or a combination of other activities listed by the state in order to receive benefits. It starts at 20 hours per week and increases to 25 after the first year and 30 hours after two years.

Lorene Reagan, Medicaid Senior Health Systems Administrator for the state health department, led Thursday’s session and said a third session has been added for the night of Oct. 3 at the DHHS auditorium.

“People have come out and provided us with constructive and helpful comments and suggestions and have asked some really great questions,” Reagan said after the forum.

The state’s request for a similar waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was denied last year, which is why audience members Thursday questioned another effort that is more stringent.

“Our position is that approval of the work requirement is impermissible under federal law,” McKinney said. “This amendment also goes further than the previously rejected amendment by applying the work requirement to parents of school age children and remove community service from the approved activities.”

Another question regarded the cost of implementing and overseeing the work requirement.

“There’s a lot more oversight in this,” one woman noted.