Bill would add work, volunteer requirements for some Medicaid recipients

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - A bill that passed the Iowa Senate last week would create work and volunteerism requirements for some people on the Iowa Health and Wellness Medicaid plan.

Some recipients of one of Iowa’s Medicaid programs may be impacted by a bill that passed out of the state Senate last week and has moved to the House of Representatives.

That bill, SF 538, spells out several requirements for members of the Iowa Health and Wellness plan to follow to continue receiving the low- or no-cost health coverage in the plan.

“I’m a firm believer that if you’re receiving a benefit, you’re able-bodied and you can contribute to the community, you should be doing that,” said state Sen. Jeff Edler, who led the legislative effort in that chamber. “For one, it helps you be a healthier individual, which in the long run is better for everyone. And two, it helps bring self-worth back to an individual who maybe, if they didn’t have that nudge to be successful, may never be successful.”

There are many groups of people who would be exempt from the requirements. Among the requirements are:

• Working, participating and complying with a work program, or volunteering for the equivalent of 20 or more hours per week, or a combination of working and participating in a work program for 20 or more hours per week.

• Participating in and complying with the Promise Jobs program.

• Enrollment in the Future Ready Iowa program.

“I really tried to make sure we were not taking someone off of Medicaid other than an individual who truly was able-bodied but was just not working,” Edler said.

Some of the exemptions under the bill would include people who:

• Are medically certified as mentally or physically unable to fulfill the requirements of the bill.

• Are pregnant.

• Are a parent or caretaker for a dependent child less than 6 years old.

• Are a parent or caretaker personally caring for a dependent child with a serious medical condition or disability.

• Are receiving unemployment compensation and complying with work requirements of the federal or state unemployment compensation system.

• Are in a drug or alcohol treatment and rehabilitation program.

• Are enrolled full-time at an educational institution.

• Are a caregiver for an elderly person with a chronic, disabling or serious health condition.

The legislation passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 32-17, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposing. The bill is now in the House, where it is going through the committee process.

“I think most people want to contribute in some way that’s productive, and I think making more opportunities for more people to work in programs like the Mid-Iowa Children’s Workshop are a better way for them to go,” said state Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown.

He said he hasn’t read the full bill yet, but plans to take a detailed look and present amendments to the legislation.

“If it got to a process that encourages work for all recipients and made opportunities available, that’s something that I would be supportive of,” Smith said.

Fellow state Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Montour, also said he had not had a chance to read the full bill as of Monday afternoon, but agrees with the bill’s goal in principle.

“I’m definitely in support of the general idea. I certainly hope it comes to the floor,” he said. “We do need to do some things to corral our Medicaid expenses because they are getting way out of hand. It just keeps growing by leaps and bounds.”

To become law, the same bill version must be approved in both chambers and then signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

To track legislation at the State Capitol, visit


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611