CONCORD — A Laconia couple with three children are among the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit over the state’s work requirements for Medicaid recipients.
The lawsuit against the federal government centers on rules that take effect later this year requiring most recipients to spend at least 100 hours a month working, going to school or participating in community service.
The plaintiffs are identified as Karin Vlk, 36, and Joshua Vlk, 30. They have three school-aged children who live with them and the mother also has a teenaged child who lives with the child’s other parent.
The family receives Medicaid coverage but Karin is worried about the increased reporting they will have to do to comply with the work requirements, and the burden that will place on her, the lawsuit states.
“Her ADHD and OCD make it difficult for her to complete paperwork,” the lawsuit states. “She is also worried about filling out and uploading the various forms and other documents to apply for exemptions and/or report the number of hours Mr. VLK works.
“She does not want to have to go into the office to drop off the forms because getting there and sitting in the office is painful and tiring. But the VLKs do not want Mr. VLK to miss work hours to go to the NHDHHS office during the day, and he does not have a driver’s license, so Mrs. VLK will be the one completing and submitting the paperwork.”
The lawsuit said that without Medicaid coverage, the family will be unable to pay for necessary medical care, including prescriptions, counselling, the woman’s back surgery and the man’s surgery to treat his hernia.
He works in construction with a job that pays $17 an hour but has an irregular schedule, the suit states. It also stated that he is in counseling to treat severe anxiety, mild depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“He also participates in drug counseling that was ordered by a state court while he is on probation,” the suit states. “The court order lasts for approximately six more months, but Mr. VLK plans to continue attending counseling afterwards to maintain his recovery and prevent a downward spiral into depression. He will rely on Medicaid to cover those appointments. If he did not have Medicaid, he would likely not be able to attend the appointments, and he would then be in violation of the terms of his probation.
“Medicaid also covers his prescription for suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction.”
The National Health Law Program, New Hampshire Legal Assistance and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice also filed the lawsuit on behalf of a 26-year-old sporting goods store cashier from Henniker, a 40-year-old who does seasonal work and lives off the land in Unity.
New Hampshire expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act in 2014 to include adults making up to 138 percent of the poverty level. The state initially used federal money to put participants on private insurance but, in reauthorizing the program last year, changed to a managed care model and added the work requirements.
While supporters argue that work requirements helps participants achieve self-sufficiency, critics say they could jeopardize health care for hardworking people who may be struggling with child care, transportation and other issues while working low-wage jobs with fluctuating hours.
“The people who have come to us for help navigating this new administrative maze are juggling multiple low-wage, service industry jobs. They are the people who keep the Granite State running,” New Hampshire Legal Assistance Policy Director Dawn McKinney said in a statement. “This new policy, which includes ending retroactive health coverage, adds more confusing and burdensome requirements for families struggling to make ends meet.”
A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. In a recent blog post, Administrator Seema Verma said the agency supports the ability of states to pursue different approaches.
“We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas in Washington. And it isn’t our job to pre-judge the outcomes of different concepts. We must support innovation, rather than act as a barrier to reform,” she wrote.
A spokesman for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said his office may intervene to defend the rules.
“This is nothing more than a partisan national organization coming in and trying to undo a bipartisan agreement by New Hampshire lawmakers in the best interest of New Hampshire citizens,” said Ben Vihstadt, a spokesman for the governor.