We have to get New Mexico working again! I fully support such bills, and I agree: Work provides a life of dignity and value. It opens the door to a larger community, to new opportunities…
FAIRBANKS – The Alaska State Senate passed a bill Thursday that would require certain Alaska residents covered by Medicaid to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week to receive coverage. Senate Bill 193, introduced by Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, has received mixed reviews from groups across the state and within the Legislature. Several Senate Democrats have pushed against the bill. “This bill is neither fiscally conservative nor fiscally responsible,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage.
Wielechowski said the original bill was estimated to cost the state $79 million over six years but will cost Alaska $175 million in “lost federal dollars” and add 51 state employees who need to be paid.These numbers also were identified in a fiscal report compiled by Jon Sherwood, deputy commissioner for the Department of Health and Social Services. The report also found that the requirement would affect 10 percent of the population, or about 22,000 people. Sherwood also said that, under federal law, the state would be required to offer work assistance to the Medicaid recipients to help with things such as transportation, training or child care, costing the state an additional estimated $14 million.
Minority Leader Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, said the bill’s failures can, in part, be blamed on the Senate majority’s inability to pass a sustainable budget. “The intent language asks for a report identifying barriers to employment, but the clock starts ticking even before that report is available,” Gardner said in a statement. “Our priority should be stabilizing Alaska’s economy so that people can find jobs and take care of themselves. This bill puts the cart before the horse.”The Foundation for Government Accountability, a right leaning group focusing on national welfare reform, penned a letter to Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, expressing its support for the bill and urging Senate Republicans to quickly pass the legislation.
“Work provides a life of dignity and value. It opens the door to a larger community, to new opportunities to make Alaska a better place. And volunteering and training have similar effects — they open the door to future employment opportunities and teach valuable skills and lessons that a lifestyle of dependency can never teach,” the letter states.
Planned Parenthood, in written testimony, opposed the bill and adverse effects the legislation may have on women’s health.“Medicaid covers 1 in 5 women of reproductive age, and Medicaid is the source of coverage for nearly half of women giving birth,” the testimony read. “Many women face barriers to work like transportation, housing and education. In rural Alaska, these work requirements would essentially prevent many women from accessing the basic, preventive health care they need.”
Kelly said the bill is really about community involvement. “This bill establishes a simple policy: If you can work and you’re receiving benefits, then you should work,” Kelly said in a statement. “If you can’t work, we understand, and you get a pass. For those who are finding it difficult to find a job, you can volunteer. The important thing is that you join the community of people who contribute every day to making Alaska a better place.”The legislation was passed, 14-3, with one senator absent and two others excused. The bill goes to the House for consideration.