Work for medicaid coming to Utah

Protesters block a street during a protest against the Republican bill in the U.S. Senate to replace President Barack Obama's health care law Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Demonstrators with Utah's Disabled Rights Action Committee chanted and carried signs while blocking State Street Tuesday afternoon. Utah protesters criticized Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch for supporting the bill and say it will cut life-saving Medicaid services and other health protections. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(KUTV)- The Trump administration gave approval for states, including Utah, to require some Medicaid recipients to have a job Thursday.

"Well I think it's needed and it's about time," Governor Herbert said in an interview with 2News. "We're the first state to ask for a coupling of Medicaid, Medicaid expansion, with the work requirement."

Big Medicaid expansion, which he supported, was never enacted here, after resistance from GOP lawmakers. Recently, Utah did expand Medicaid to cover the homeless.

Details of the new Medicaid work, the governor said, have not been finalized; but when the Utah Department of Health applied for permission to start the program, it listed exemptions to the work rule that "may be considered in the future."

Those potential exemptions include: people 60 or over, disabled persons, parents caring for young kids, those in drug rehab, students, refugees, even those receiving unemployment benefits.

"It could be volunteer work; it could be even for stay at home moms and dads," said the governor. "The idea is that they would be contributing to society."

Some are sharply critical of the upcoming work rule.

"Work requirements are solving a problem that doesn't exist," said Stacy Stanford, health policy analyst with the Utah Health Policy Project. "Most Medicaid recipients work, and those who don't are largely disabled, chronically ill, caregivers, or students."

She said in other federal programs "eligible individuals lost their benefits because of red tape barriers."

The Democratic National Committee said the move from the administration is "putting access to healthcare for 309,000 Utahns at risk."

But the state health department said the number affected would be 13,000, and many have jobs now.

It's unknown how soon the work requirement will be implemented.

In defense of it, the governor sounded a philosophical note.

"I can give you a fish and feed you for a day," he said. "Or I teach you to fish, and you can help yourself and feed yourself for a lifetime."

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