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In the world of social programs, Medicaid is one of the hardest to understand. It’s something of a catch-all program for low-income people, covering broad and divergent needs. Included are healthy children and adults with eligible dependent children, people with disabilities or special health needs, and the elderly. Eligibility is income-based and it varies according the category of qualification for the program.During the state’s 2011 fiscal year, more than three quarters of the funding allocated to the Department of Health and Welfare’s budget went to Medicaid. The program received about $1.55 billion in federal and state funding, with 74 percent of those dollars coming from the federal government.Enrollment in Idaho’s Medicaid program has grown substantially in recent years. The average monthly Medicaid enrollment was fairly stable between 2006 and 2008. It grew by about 3.5 percent. But in the last three years, the program’s enrollment has grown nearly 21 percent. Ballooning from about 185,000 in 2008 to 228,897 in 2012.

Work Requirements For Medicaid On The Table For Gov.-Elect Brad Little

Otto Kitsinger
Gov.-elect Brad Little answers a reporter's question at the State Capitol building Jan. 3, 2019 in Boise, Idaho.

Governor-elect Brad Little doubled down on including some extra restrictions to Idaho’s impending Medicaid expansion.

It’s still unclear what these add-ons to the Gem State’s Medicaid program will look like, but Little says work requirements are on the table.

“We ought to have a safety net, it’s incredibly important. It’s our obligation to have a safety net, but we ought to have spring in the safety net,” Little says.

The federal government would have to sign off on any kind of extra requirements tied to the expansion, and has done so for five other states.

Arkansas is one of them. Through November, nearly 17,000 people there have lost Medicaid coverage because they didn’t work at least 20 hours a week or properly report it.

“I don’t want to create – and I believe the legislature doesn’t want to create – a secondary gap, but we want to put in the utmost incentives for people to continue to move from Medicaid on to other coverage,” Little says.

Advocates have called on state lawmakers to simply fund the Medicaid Expansion as-is, but House Speaker Scott Bedke says that’s not likely.

“The legislature’s never left anything alone in their history and I doubt they will on this one,” Bedke says.

The Idaho Legislature will gavel in Monday when Governor-elect Little gives his first State of the State address.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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