A Fairbanks state senator says some adults receiving Medicaid should be required to meet certain work conditions to remain on the program.

Senate President Pete Kelly has SB 193 before the Senate Finance Committee, which supports his proposal but strongly questions Gov. Bill Walker’s fiscal analysis.

The bill calls for some Medicaid recipients to work a minimum 20 hours a week.

Employment is one way of satisfying the criteria. Others include: volunteering, subsistence activities and pursuing education or training would count toward that minimum.

Kelly’s bill also exempts certain Medicaid participants including:

Children under 18 or elderly over 65
Pregnant women
Caretakers of a dependent child up to 12 months
A child with a disability or relative with disability that requires 24-hour care
Those unable to work for medical reasons.

The Walker administration, however, says Kelly’s initiative will cost the state almost $79 million and require 49 new positions to manage any changes. It could also cost the state $175 million in federal funding.

On Tuesday the Finance Committee members, including committee co-chair Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) strongly questioned the administration’s fiscal analysis.

“Fifty positions is around number that the department continues to give us in multiple fronts trying to get more bodies in the Department of Health and Social Services for Medicaid expansion,” she said. “By expansion, I’m not talking about an individual population.

“I’m talking about the growth in the overall deployment of those assets of all the people in Alaska who qualify without the consideration of whether the state has the general fund dollars of being able to support it.”

John Sherwood, the deputy commissioner for the Department of Health and Social Services, estimates the bill could affect about 25,000 Alaskans currently enrolled in Medicaid.

“It’s very difficult to estimate the impact this is going to have on really elevating people off of Medicaid long term versus simply assuring they stay engaged in the work force or other acceptable activities as the experience an economic setback,” he told the committee.

The bill remains in the Senate Finance Committee for further review and is scheduled to be heard again on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Miccciche (R-Soldotna) defended the bill, saying the work conditions are not meant to be punitive.

“The reality of it is, I demand that the government is there for people who absolutely need assistance because they are disabled, assistance for seniors who are at a different stage of their life, assistance for folks who can’t work,” he said. “But assistance for the healthy, should be temporary. I would much rather invest the money in training and providing work than handing out coverage.”

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