(KCPW News) The Utah House of Representatives passed a bill today that creates a pilot program requiring less than 100 people to perform community service as a condition of receiving Medicaid benefits. But, opponents of the bill, like House Minority Leader David Litvack, said the program would penalize working citizens for the failures of the health care system.
“As costs continue rise, these are the ones that get dropped off either because their employer cannot offer it, or they cannot afford what is being offered,” said Litvack. “And there is an underlying perception, and we all know that it’s there, that individuals on public benefits have done something wrong.”
Bill sponsor, Republican Ronda Rudd Menlove, said the pilot program is a way to explore allowing more people into the Medicaid program as it expands due to federal healthcare reform. She said the pilot would allow Medicaid recipients to provide community service in place of co-pays for healthcare, and that the community service could be done in schools or other areas where assistance is needed due to budget constraints.
Republican Representative Holly Richardson said the program would provide an incentive for people to eventually leave Medicaid.
“We welcome them with open arms, we have a federal mandate that we take them when they qualify, and we have nothing that encourages them to get off or to participate in paying back to the system,” said Richardson. “I am hopeful that as we structure the program we can see if people are already working that it’s not an undue burden. I don’t expect that were asking people to contribute 40 hours a week.”
House Bill 211 passed by a 56-15 vote, with all but one of the opposing votes coming from Democrats. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. If the bill passes, the pilot program would still need the approval of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to be implemented.
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