Colorado Senate bill would add work requirements for Medicaid recipients

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., back second from right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, urging Republicans to abandon cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

DENVER — The next big fight at the Colorado Capitol gets an opening bell Thursday when a Senate committee hears a bill to make many of those Medicaid get back to work or at least look for a job.

Senate Bill 214, sponsored by Republican Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa and Rep. Susan Beckman of Littleton, would place “self-sufficiency provisions” on Medicaid recipients deemed able-bodied.

Those covered by the new rules would have to verify income monthly for Medicaid eligibility. Anyone who fails to report or makes a false statement about work compliance would lose eligibility.

The bill also puts a five-year limit on Medicaid benefits and imposes co-payments for use of emergency rooms and ambulances for non-emergency services and transportation.

While the legislation might make it out of the Republican-led Senate, it’s dead on arrival when it reaches the House, where Democrats have an eight-seat majority.

First, however, the bill directs the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to submit a request for a waiver from the federal government to get the authority to put some Medicaid recipients back in the workforce.

This month Arkansas became the third state to add Medicaid work requirements. The Trump administration already has approved requests from Kentucky and Indiana.

Before the hearing at 1:30 p.m. before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Thursday, patients and Medicaid advocates will hold a rally on the Capitol’s west steps. The demonstration is organized by the left-leaning Protect Our Care Colorado Coalition.

Opponents said most of the non-workers on the Medicaid program who have health conditions that prevent work nonetheless are caring for children or other family members. Work requirements would only add bureaucracy and limit access to Medicaid for people who need it, they contend.

“Adding unnecessary and harmful requirements to Medicaid pushes families backwards and will just make it harder for qualified Coloradans to stay insured,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “This bill will cost taxpayers millions to create more red tape and will result in more Colorado families being uninsured.”

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