Health

Lawmakers Seek Work Requirements for Medicaid Recipients

Since taking office in January 2017, President Donald Trump has worked to end the Affordable Care Act, which most Americans have relied on for health benefits.

And while the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — remains tenuously in place, the president and many Republican lawmakers around the country have now set their sights on Medicaid.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that states can apply for waivers to implement work requirements for people who receive Medicaid benefits, a move that would affect some older Americans.

To date, waivers have been approved in three states and are pending approval in others, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Age limits vary for who might have to fulfill work or “community engagement” requirements for up to 80 hours a month. In Kentucky, Medicaid recipients are exempt at 64. In Indiana, 60 is the cutoff age. In Arkansas, however, 50 is the cutoff.

As of early April, other states seeking to implement work requirements include Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin, according to the report.

In Pennsylvania, state House lawmakers passed a bill in April requiring some Medicaid recipients to work or actively seek a job.

“I voted against it — it’s a solution in search of a problem,” said state Rep. Chris Rabb. “[The Capitol] is awash in rampant Trump-ism and this bill is an encroachment on the special safety net and it disproportionately hurts Black and brown folks.”

A fiscal note attached to the Pennsylvania bill said about 438,000 residents currently on Medicaid would be forced to work and Rabb said the bill costs $800 million in paperwork alone.

“[Republicans] don’t believe in a robust budget and it’s OK to them if we spend this amount of money to hurt people who are already marginalized,” Rabb said. “We don’t want an educational fund for public schools to help our children and we don’t want environmental [measures] to protect our children’s breathing of toxic air.”

The measure, HB2138, which passed by a 115-80 vote, mandates that “able-bodied” adults enrolled in Medicaid work at least 20 hours a week, look for a job or participate in job training.

Perhaps showing that Americans are against efforts to make work requirements for Medicaid and also the repeal of Obamacare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its Health Insurance Exchanges 2018 Open Enrollment Period Final Report, which revealed that 11.8 million individuals signed up for coverage during the open enrollment period for 2018.

Sam Berger, senior adviser at the Center for American Progress, said in a release that the real news is that, despite efforts by Congress and Trump to sabotage people’s health care, nearly 12 million people signed up for coverage this year.

“This success is a testament to the incredible work of so many people to defend the Affordable Care Act from the Trump administration’s attacks and help the public get signed up for coverage,” Berger said. “Without their persistence and determination, millions of families would be left without coverage and at risk of financial catastrophe.”

CMS’s report also revealed that Trump’s actions, such as cutting outreach and enrollment assistance, are having a real effect — the reduction in enrollment from the previous year occurred in those states that rely most heavily upon the federal government to help people sign up.

“Experts have warned Congress and the Trump administration that their continued attacks will lead to increased costs for families, yet still, they do nothing,” Berger said. “The American people want Congress to make health care more affordable and accessible, and they’ll keep speaking up until Congress listens.”

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Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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