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Health Policy Spotlight: Medicaid Work Requirements

February 6, 2018

In a statement this January, the Trump Administration urged states to begin forcing people who rely on Medicaid to prove that they are working in order to continue receiving benefits.  Thus far, two states – Kentucky & Indiana – have created these programs and have been approved by the administration.  A bill currently under consideration in Harrisburg – House Bill 2024 – would impose work requirements in Pennsylvania.

It’s important to know that Medicaid work requirements aren’t programs that help struggling people find good jobs.  Simply put, they’re Medicaid cuts in disguise.

Work requirements are a way of creating more red tape, more confusion, and more barriers for people who need Medicaid.  People whose employers unexpectedly cut their hours, for example, could lose their Medicaid. So could people whose employers give them incomplete pay stubs.  Even people who should be exempt from the requirements to work –because of a disability or serious mental illness, for example – may end up losing their coverage because they don’t have the right paperwork or don’t know they need to file it.

In Kentucky, where work requirements are moving ahead, the state has officially projected that 15% of people who rely on Medicaid will lose access as a result of this program.  This shows that cuts are not a surprising side effect of work requirements; they’re the goal.

It’s important to note that most people on Medicaid who can work already work. 60 percent of adults under 65 on Medicaid are already working, and 78 percent have at least one worker in the family. Nearly 80 percent of those not working are in school or cannot work due to illness, disability, or caregiving responsibilities.

Taking away people’s healthcare won’t make it easier for them to find work.  It will simply punish struggling families who are already having trouble making ends meet.  For people with chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes who are actively trying to manage their conditions, losing access to treatment could make it even harder to find work as their health deteriorates.

Medicaid work requirements are really cuts masquerading as a solution that will help families find jobs. If lawmakers are serious about helping struggling families find work, they need to provide funding for things like job training, childcare, and transportation, not cut off people’s access to healthcare.