About 100 low-income Utahns who receive health coverage under Medicaid could be required to do community service in order to receive benefits under a proposal that passed the House on Wednesday.
House Assistant Majority Whip Rhonda Menlove, R-Garland, said her goal is to give Medicaid recipients a way to help deal with projected cost increases in the Medicaid program.
"It would allow a population to reimburse in a sense their services through Medicaid through voluntary service," Menlove said. "The side benefit is we will have people volunteer in schools, in other areas throughout the community where we seriously need assistance due to budget cuts."
It would set up a pilot program where 100 individuals between ages 19 and 64 who are not employed would be required to do community service, provided the state can be granted a waiver from the federal government.
But Democrats opposed the bill.
House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, said the proposal is more about perception than really solving a problem. He said 57 percent of those enrolled in the state's Medicaid health care network are working, but aren't offered health insurance or they can't afford it.
"If we're going to make it a policy that in order to start receiving public benefits you must do community service, then I'm waiting for the bill that requires film companies that receive the film tax incentive to do community service," said Litvack. "Then we're no longer working on what may be a public perception of those in our social service system."
Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, said part of the reason Medicaid costs have grown so rapidly is because there is no incentive for people to get off the program and perhaps requiring some community service would do that.
Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, supported the proposal because he said the United States is continuing to slide toward socialism.
The bill passed 56-15 and now goes to the Senate.