Lawmakers Leave New Hampshire Work Requirements Vulnerable to Removal by CMS

Published April 4, 2016

A split in the New Hampshire House of Representatives prompted Speaker Shawn Jasper (R-Hillsborough County) to break a 181–181 tie on March 9 in favor of including a severability clause for work requirements in House Bill 1696. The House and Senate subsequently passed the bill, which Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed into law on April 5.

HB 1696 states, “Newly eligible adults who are unemployed shall be eligible to receive benefits” if “engaging in at least 30 hours” of employment, job training, job searching, or other work-related activities. The bill does not state the time period in which the “30 hours” must be given, but news reports are stating the requirement as 30 hours per week.

The adopted amendment, offered by state Rep. Karen Umberger (R-Carroll County), ensures the Medicaid expansion program will remain in effect even if the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) holds the legislation’s work requirements invalid.

Clean or Dirty?

State Rep. Allen Cook (R-Rockingham County) says Jasper told the House he wanted to send a “clean bill” to Washington, DC immediately before casting his vote.

Jasper’s vote to include the severance clause all but guarantees CMS will strike down the bill’s work requirements, Cook says.

“You would think our leader would stand up for the work requirements,” Cook said. “Republicans won back the House and Senate in the last four years because people want us to stop the profligate spending, if we would just have the courage to.”

Cook says the decision made by the Republican-controlled House reflects both parties’ willingness to depend on federal assistance.

“Our decision says, ‘Let’s throw ourselves at the altar of the federal government and worship at their feet for $400 million,'” said Cook, a pastor at Grace Ministries International in Brentwood.

New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion program will cost the state $25 million and the federal government $434 million in 2018, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Michael Hamilton ([email protected]) is The Heartland Institute’s research fellow for health care issues and managing editor of Health Care News.