McNally blocks Senate vote on Harwell’s work-for-Medicaid bill

House Speaker Beth Harwell was caught “completely off guard” Thursday when Senate Speaker Randy McNally stopped a scheduled floor vote on her House-approved bill that imposes work requirements on some able-bodied adult Medicaid enrollees, reports the Times Free Press.

Harwell, who is running for governor, defended the legislation, saying it has “84 percent popularity, people want to see this work requirement. It’s a work requirement that we put on welfare recipients — we did that back when Bill Clinton allowed us to have that flexibility. Trump is giving us this flex with TennCare.”

She added: “I still firmly believe that able-bodied people should either volunteer, go back to school or work, one of those three things.”

McNally later told reporters that he generally favors the concept but had questions about the legislation after speaking with state and federal officials while in Washington this week.

Mary Graham, president of United Ways of Tennessee, said the organization and others who oppose the Medicaid work-requirement bill are “grateful to Senate leaders for pushing the pause button” on the legislation.

“We urge our senators to get answers to the many unanswered questions about the bill’s true cost to taxpayers financially, as well as the potential negative impact on Tennesseans and our communities,” Graham said in a statement. “We encourage our Senate to look at who the bill would affect, as well as its unintended harm to vulnerable children, seniors and people with disabilities.”

…”I just wanted to check with the [Trump] administration and see if implementation of that bill is lined up and goes smoothly,” McNally said. “And I, unfortunately, haven’t had a chance to talk to them about it.”

Further from WPLN:

“If you poll that issue, I think that most people agree that able-bodied people … ought to have a work requirement or a school requirement,” he (McNally) says. “But if you poll it with the cost, I think you might get some different answers.”

Budgeters estimate it would cost the state nearly $45 million to monitor a work requirement. That works out to more than $10,000 for every person the program will discover should be working but hasn’t been.

That’s because TennCare already bars most able-bodied adults. Only those who can show they’re caring for someone else — like a child or a disabled relative — are allowed to enroll.

The work requirement would likely cost far more than it would save the state. Budgeters estimate a nearly $19 million net annual loss. So lawmakers propose raiding another safety-net program, cash-assistance to needy families, to pay for it.

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