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With 17,000 Facing Penalty, N.H. Delays Medicaid Work Requirement

DHHS Commissioner Jeff Meyers, left, joined Governor Chris Sununu during a press conference on Monday.
Todd Bookman/NHPR
DHHS Commissioner Jeff Meyers, left, joined Governor Chris Sununu during a press conference on Monday.
DHHS Commissioner Jeff Meyers, left, joined Governor Chris Sununu during a press conference on Monday.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR
DHHS Commissioner Jeff Meyers, left, joined Governor Chris Sununu during a press conference on Monday.

During the first month of a new Medicaid work requirement in New Hampshire, nearly 17,000 recipients were out of compliance, prompting Gov. Chris Sununu to announce Monday that the law’s penalties will be delayed through September.

Speaking at a press conference at the State House, Sununu also announced that state employees will go door-to-door in an effort to notify more recipients about the new rules, and that he signed into law a measure favored by Democrats that loosens some of the programs requirements. 

“Making sure we get this right is just absolutely paramount,” said Sununu. “So the idea of giving ourselves another 120 days to move forward on this and get the implementation where we need it to be, it’s not just fair to the system, but it’s fair to those individuals.” 

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers said that out of the 24,895 Medicaid recipients enrolled in June without a qualifying exemption, 16,874 people failed to provide proof to the state that they met the new Medicaid work rules, which require people to work for 100 hours each month, or prove some other type of qualifying community engagement. 

The low compliance rate comes despite months of outreach by the state, including radio ads, public information sessions, direct mailings and text messages. 

“This is a challenging population to reach, and that’s why we are making the effort that we are making,” said Meyers. The newly launched door-to-door campaign will target high-density communities, including in Manchester and Nashua. 

New Hampshire’s initial figures come on the heels of Arkansas’s roll out of a similar work requirement last year, which saw approximately 16,000 recipients lose their Medicaid health coverage. 

Critics of the state’s work requirement, including Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Democrat from Nashua, call the reporting requirements for recipients “onerous and difficult.” She applauded the governor’s signing of Senate Bill 290.

“We have said all along that any work requirement in New Hampshire cannot result in the arbitrary loss of health care coverage for Granite Staters, like it did in Arkansas,” said Rosenwald in a statement. 

New Hampshire’s work requirement remains at the center of a federal lawsuit brought by four residents who allege the new rules could force them to lose their coverage. Last month, the N.H. Attorney General’s office filed a brief in the case defending the work requirement, writing that “the only persons likely to experience gaps in coverage are persons who choose not to comply with the requirements.”

Commissioner Meyers seemed to distance himself from that position when asked about it Monday, saying that “my view is that we’ve got a lot of work to do, this is a difficult population to connect with...and we’ve got more efforts to undertake. Could there be some individuals who choose not to comply? Sure. But, I don’t approach it that way.” 

In March, a federal judge blocked Medicaid work requirements in both Arkansas and Kentucky, calling the new rules “arbitrary and capricious.”

Read Commissioner Meyer's letter for temporary waiver of the work requirement.

Copyright 2021 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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