CONCORD — A Senate-passed bill to substantially weaken the work requirement in New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid program cleared the House in a 207-143 party line vote on Wednesday, without a single Republican in support.
The bill, SB 290, faces a likely veto from Gov. Chris Sununu, and did not pass in either chamber with veto-proof majorities.
Among other things, it would end the work requirement entirely if it resulted in more than 500 people losing their benefits out of 50,000 in the expanded version of the federally funded health insurance program for low-income households.
Other measures in SB 290 that would constrain the work requirement include applying it only to people 19 to 49 years of age, reducing required hours worked from 100 to 80, and basing it on an average of 20 hours per week instead of 25.
The bill also adds self-employment and participation in mental illness recovery programs as activities that would satisfy the work requirement.
An exemption from the work requirement for custodial parents or caretakers has been changed to apply in households with children up to the age of 16, as opposed to under the age of 6 in the existing statute.
The bill also establishes exemptions from the work requirement for any beneficiary who is homeless, the caretaker of a grandchild, a full-time college or university student and anyone 50 or older.
If the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) does not approve the work requirement as designed in the bill, the requirement could be eliminated.
Democrats framed the bill as a measure to protect individuals from losing coverage, while Republicans called it a “broken promise.”
“Make no mistake, SB 290 is a direct attack on the bipartisan compromise reached just last year on the Granite Advantage health care program,” said House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack.
“This bill significantly weakens the work requirement that has only just been implemented. I’m disappointed that Democrats broke a promise in an attempt to solve a problem that we’re not even sure exists.”
The work requirement took effect on June 1, with reporting deadlines in July.
“Individuals and families who rely on coverage provided by the Granite Advantage Health Care Program should not have to live in fear that they could lose their healthcare if they do not meet onerous reporting requirements,” said House Majority Leader Doug Ley, D-Jaffrey.
The work requirement is also being challenged in federal court, where a judge has already rejected similar efforts in two other states.
Other health-care bills
The House took action on several other Senate-passed bills related to health care, including:
• Mental health parity: The House passed, on a voice vote, SB 272, requiring insurance companies to cover mental health or addiction conditions the same as physical ailments, with no additional limits on things like co-pays or number of visits.
• Access to fertility care: Voting largely along party lines, 210-147, the House passed SB 279, requiring insurance companies to offer coverage for infertility treatment in group policies.
• Health-care data: A bill creating a more robust and searchable healthcare database, with all personal information redacted (SB 111), passed the House on a voice vote, after an unsuccessful attempt by Republicans to have termination of pregnancies added to the data collected.
“This chamber has already rejected a different method of collecting data about abortion statistics and sees no reason to revisit the issue in the context of this bill,” stated Rep. Gary Woods, D-Bow.