FILE - PA David Argall, Scott Martin

Pennsylvania state Sens. David Argall (left) and Scott Martin.

If state Sens. David Argall and Scott Martin have their way, the topic of work requirements for Medicaid will again be part of the Pennsylvania Legislature’s discussions as lawmakers return from their summer break next week.

Argall and Martin announced this week that they have introduced a bill that would expect able-bodied beneficiaries to work 20 hours a week or 440 hours overall during a six-month period. Activities that would fulfill this requirement include self-employment, volunteering, internships, job training, attending college, actively seeking employment and more.

The legislation, Senate Bill 847, also excludes a variety of individuals from having to meet the terms of the work requirement. Those excluded are anyone who is disabled, pregnant, younger than 18, older than 65, undergoing treatment for mental health or substance abuse issues, or anyone taking care of someone younger than 6, permanently disabled or in hospice care.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has previously vetoed similar pieces of legislation in 2017 and 2018.

“Medicaid is a huge expense for taxpayers that grows larger every year,” Martin said in a news release. “We need to explore ways to reduce the cost of welfare programs to ensure they are viable for future generations. We cannot achieve that goal if the recipients who are most able to work remain on the welfare rolls indefinitely.”

According to information that Argall and Martin provided to fellow lawmakers in a co-sponsorship memo, Pennsylvania is fourth in the U.S. in annual Medicaid spending at $28 billion a year. The state’s Independent Fiscal Office, they said, projects that Medicaid spending in the state is set to increase another 27 percent for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The senators told colleagues that their intent is to help individuals seemingly stuck in a cycle of relying on government assistance to become more independent and to align Pennsylvania’s social services with the work requirements already in place for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Contrary to what some people would lead you to believe, we are not kicking crutches out from under individuals with disabilities or denying care to at-risk families,” Argall said in the news release. “We are only setting a better and fairer standard for individuals who are healthy and have the potential to work their way out of poverty and earn a better standard of living.”

After he vetoed similar legislation in October, Wolf insisted that work requirements unfairly target the needy.

“This legislation does not promote health coverage, access and treatment,” Wolf said in a statement at the time. “Instead, this legislation increases costs, creates unnecessary delays and confusion, penalizes individuals who need healthcare, and terminates health coverage for those who need it the most.”

The bill from Argall and Martin is pending before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.