Should Medicaid recipients perform community service to receive benefits?
Utah state Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, is proposing a plan to ask all those who receive Medicaid payments to perform an undisclosed amount of community service to receive health benefits. Menlove says that her idea would start as a small pilot that could turn into something much larger if it works. The problem, she says, is that many in Utah are feeling entitled to health care rights and are gaming the system to avoid paying their own medical expenses.
Two Idaho state lawmakers feel the idea wouldn’t work in Idaho, but one legislator says the plan might work in the Gem State.
One Republican on the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee says Menlove's idea could use some work. "I think we could probably come up with some better eligibility systems than that," said Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale. "If they (Utah) don't want people on Medicaid, they should change the eligibility requirements." Would it make sense to implement a system like that to encourage Idahoans to purchase private insurance? Boyle thinks Menlove's idea would only hurt the poorest and most-disabled in the state. "Some of the folks on Medicaid can't do much of anything," said the Midvale Republican. "That doesn't sound like a feasible idea to me."
One of the most outspoken proponents of Medicaid reform is Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, who writes regularly on his blog, entitled "Common Sense Solutions," about the need to find ways to cut government costs for some social programs while enabling citizens to produce goods for themselves. When asked about Menlove's idea, Thayn said his he and his colleagues might be interested if the details are right. "I think it would work," said Thayn. "Medicaid recipients would be able to demonstrate gratitude or pay back the community. It would, at the very least, give them a sense of self-worth."
But would it be cruel to require Medicaid recipients to work for their health coverage? Thayn thinks that those who are improperly using government resources would be less inclined to do so if Menlove's idea was implemented in Idaho. "I think there is segment of the population that gets something for nothing," explained the Emmett Republican. "We simply cannot pay people not to do anything."
Another lawmaker on the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee, Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, says that Menlove's proposal could work in Idaho if the policy is applied across the board. "We don't have the same expectations of those who receive federal agricultural subsidies," said Durst. The Boise Democrat says that many folks on Medicaid were, at some point in their lives, taxpayers who have made an investment into social programs. "They've been giving to the system and to require them to do community services says that maybe their investment was insufficient or undervalued," concluded Durst.
Menlove cites examples of wealthy college students enrolling in Medicaid only to fund baby delivery. “Is it my responsibility as a taxpayer to pay for that person to have a baby? Or could that money be better used for other purposes?” Menlove asked The Salt Lake Tribune last week.
But cost-savings isn't the only reason the plan makes sense for the Garland Republican. Menlove says she is concerned with a culture that relies on the government to make choices in place of the free market. "She believes the savings would come from making Medicaid less attractive than coverage purchased in the open market," writes Kirsten Stewart of the Tribune. “Medicaid is growing at an unsustainable rate,” said Menlove, who believes oncoming federal health care reforms will only worsen the entitlement mentality in Utah.