By Consumers For Quality Care , on August 7, 2019
Sixty-three year old Diane Roberts has worked for decades hauling trash in Merrimack County, New Hampshire. She would wake up before the sun, driving her 1988 Chevy dump truck across the county. One day in 2015, Roberts fell out of the truck in a work accident, hitting her head on the cement below, Concord Monitor reports.
A week later, she suffered her first aneurysms and was rushed to a Massachusetts hospital. Since the accident, Roberts has continued to suffer from aneurysms and becomes exhausted easily. Her surgeons have suggested that she retire, but Roberts says that she cannot afford to do so. Still, subsequent health issues from the accident have left her unable to work more than a few hours a week now.
As the implementation of New Hampshire’s Medicaid work requirements neared, Roberts worked to receive a “medical fragility” designation. The designation would have made her exempt from the work requirement and allowed her to keep her health care coverage. In order for Roberts to receive the designation, her doctors would have to fill out her application. For weeks they refused to do so. Even after Roberts turned to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, the approval was denied.
“I was going to give up on myself and not go to the doctor’s anymore,” she said Tuesday afternoon while replacing the overfill tank in her dump truck.
Roberts, like thousands in the state, was at risk of losing her health insurance. The work requirement program was expected to go into effect earlier this summer, but was delayed as Judge James E. Boasberg decided if the 100-hour-a-month work requirement would further the state’s mission for Medicaid.
Following similar decisions regarding Arkansas and Kentucky’s work requirements, Judge Boasberg blocked the implementation of the program. The judge argued that the federal government “had not adequately addressed the potential loss of health coverage for low-income residents.”
The decision means that New Hampshire consumers, like Roberts, will not have to receive exemptions from the work requirement to keep their health care. Consumers for Quality Care has previously highlighted how some New Hampshire consumers were struggling to understand how their state’s work requirements would impact their coverage.
Ray Burke with New Hampshire Legal Assistance has been helping Roberts navigate the process to receive her exemption. He says she is the kind of consumer the work requirements would have burdened.
“For the past month, Diane has been having to make several trips, not only here … and then to DHHS’s (the Department of Health and Human Services) offices, and then to her doctor’s offices,” he said during a recent interview. “So while she’s supposed to be at home resting, especially during the summer heat, she’s been making several weekly, if not more frequently, trips just trying to get this sorted out.”
Although the state may still appeal Boasberg’s decision, Burke says that this ruling is a win for consumers like Roberts.