A bill passed in the Iowa Senate would require a portion of the state’s Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week to keep government benefits. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, said it fits with President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” motto.
“Part of that is to get people off of the system and back into work and self-sufficiency,” Schultz said during debate. “It’s where humans thrive when they’re taking care of themselves.”
The bill’s work requirements would apply to people who live just above the poverty line and qualify for Medicaid under a program expansion approved in 2014. The parents of young children, people over the age of 65 and disabled Iowans would not be required to work to qualify for Medicaid or for food stamps.
The bill passed with the support of 31 Republicans. The 18 Democrats in the Senate voted against it. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said it’s time to target businesses that pay so little their workers qualify for government assistance.
“We ought to get employers who are freeloading on Iowa taxpayers involved in this conversation,” Bolkcom said.
Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Hiawatha, said the bill will create new obstacles for struggling families.
“But it’s obvious there aren’t enough people in this room that understand that,” Mathis said during debate.
Senator Amanda Ragan, a Democrat from Mason City, said some Iowans who work would lose their benefits through no fault of their own.
“These enrollees that we’re talking about in Medicaid work in industries in which both the employment and the hours are volatile,” Ragan said.
Schultz, the Republican who guided the bill through the senate, said government food assistance and health care coverage are not meant to last a lifetime.
“Able-bodied adults are who we’re talking about,” Schultz said.”…When we do things that incentivize people to go ahead, get a job, get off the program their lives are better, the lives of their children are better, the state is stronger, the nation is stronger.”
Schultz emphasized that the proposal is popular in his western Iowa district.
“Folks understand that if they’re working to pay the bill that somebody should be asked to work to receive it, if they are able,” Schultz said, “and I don’t think that’s wrong.”
Schultz said government assistance should be a “springboard” to self-sufficiency.