Work Requirements

In 2015, Republican Matt Bevin campaigned for governor on two major healthcare-related platforms:

  • Eliminate the state's perfectly-functioning, award-winning, highly-praised and beloved ACA exchange, "kynect" for no particular reason other than spite.
  • Eliminate the state's ACA Medicaid expansion program, which as of this writing provides around 480,000 low-income Kentuckians with healthcare coverage.

For some inexplicable reason, voters in Kentucky elected him regardless. Once he got into office, he did indeed make good on the first promise, shutting down the state's perfectly good ACA exchange platform and shifting KY to the federal exchange at HealthCare.Gov.

When it came to eliminating Medicaid expansion, on the other hand, he found it to be a little bit tougher than expected; actually pulling the plug on nearly half a million people's healthcare coverage proved to be a tougher nut to crack than he thought.

Some Guy, 2015:

In other words, only about 10% (at most) of those still in the Medicaid Gap could even remotely match the GOP's cliche of a "lazy, good-for-nothing layabout" type who's able-bodied, has no serious extenuating circumstances and so forth. The "get off your ass and work!" requirements appear to be nearly as big a waste of time and resources as the infamous "drug testing for welfare recipients" bandwagon which a bunch of states jumped on board over the past few years.

Over the past year or so I've written numerous entries about Michigan Republicans pushing through an ineffective, inefficient, cruel and pointless work requirement addition to Michigan's implementation of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, culminating in this one:

New work requirements for people in Michigan's Medicaid expansion group could cause as many as 183,000 people to lose their coverage.

Anywhere between 9 and 27 percent of the approximately 680,000 people enrolled in the Michigan Healthy Plan - or 61,000 to 183,000 recipients - could be kicked of the rolls.

That's up to three times what was estimated by the House Fiscal Agency when the work requirement bill was passed last year. The work requirements are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020.

Over the past year or so I've written numerous entries about Michigan Republicans pushing through an ineffective, inefficient, cruel and pointless work requirement addition to Michigan's implementation of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, culminating in this one:

New work requirements for people in Michigan's Medicaid expansion group could cause as many as 183,000 people to lose their coverage.

Anywhere between 9 and 27 percent of the approximately 680,000 people enrolled in the Michigan Healthy Plan - or 61,000 to 183,000 recipients - could be kicked of the rolls.

That's up to three times what was estimated by the House Fiscal Agency when the work requirement bill was passed last year. The work requirements are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020.

As I noted at the time, MI GOP claims that the work requirements will "fill job openings" is a load of hot, steaming garbage:

"Medicaid Work Requirements" have been in the news a lot over the past two years as the Trump Administration has given states the go-ahead to start imposing increasingly draconian, humiliating and ineffective work requirements for low-income people to avoid losing healthcare coverage.

For the most part, though, the work requirement bills have at the very least been restricted to ACA expansion of the Medicaid program to "able-bodied" adults earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line (roughly $17,000/year for a single adult or $23,300 for a couple without minor children).

Today, Joan Alker of the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children & Famlies reports that the Florida House of Representatives is planning on taking the cruelty even further:

URGENT: On Thursday, the Florida House will take up the harshest Medicaid work reporting requirement bill that I’ve EVER seen. As many as 100,000, mostly mothers, could lose their health insurance. https://t.co/64uRz23Puk

Montana didn't expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act until January 2016, and when they did so, the legislation was written with an automatic sunset date of June 30, 2019 unless it's expanded beyond that. Unfortunately, the ballot proposal to make Medicaid expansion permanent failed last November, which put the issue back in the hands of state lawmakers.

The good news is that the Montana state legislature did indeed finally vote to extend the program, which covers around 96,000 people, this week. The bad news is...well:

The bill to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana passed out of the state Senate Tuesday after teetering on the edge of a deadline for end of session negations.

Ugh:

CMS gives thumbs-up to Medicaid work requirements in Ohio

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has approved a waiver request for work requirements in Ohio’s Medicaid program.

...CMS rolled out guidance on these waivers in January 2018, and since then eight states, including Ohio, have had requests approved. Several additional states have submitted waivers that the agency has yet to weigh in on.

...Arkansas is the only state where such work requirements have formally been launched, and in the last several months of 2018, more than 18,000 people lost Medicaid coverage as a result of the work requirement. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that most of these losses were a result of the administrative requirements associated with reporting work hours.

Double Ugh:

Amidst all the depressing news about various GOP states moving backwards on healthcare policy by gunking up Medicaid programs to add draconian work requirements, lowering the eligibility thresholds, stripping benefits and so forth, there were two positive developments in deep red territory last week, both relating to Medicaid work requirements:

First, in West Virginia:

A bill that sought to place work or other requirements on Medicaid recipients in West Virginia has died in the House of Delegates.

A House committee put the bill on its inactive calendar Wednesday, Feb. 27, the final day that legislation could be passed in their chamber of origin. The full House earlier Wednesday debated the bill but stopped short of voting on it, and did not take up the bill during a late evening session before adjourning.

The bill would have required able-bodied adults to work, participate in workforce training or community service, or attend a drug treatment or recovery program for at least 20 hours per week.

(sigh) Just nine hours ago I posted the following about Kentucky's Medicaid expansion work requirement waiver:

A waiver was approved for Kentucky last spring, but has been (temporarily?) invalidated by court order.

I guess it's a good thing I included the "temporarily" caveat, because just moments ago...

.@CMSGov just re-approved Kentucky’s #Medicaid waiver. https://t.co/2Q16AKQoLS

— Dustin Pugel (@Dpugel) November 21, 2018

Sure enough, here it is:

Over at the Washington Post, Catherine Rampell has an article which confirms EVERYTHING that I and other healthcare wonks have been warning about for months (or years) regarding the real-world impact of imposing work requirements for Medicaid expansion recipients:

...For many low-income families, the Arkansas experiment has already proved disastrous. More than 12,000 have been purged from the state Medicaid rolls since September — and not necessarily because they’re actually failing to work 80 hours a month, as the state requires.

...McGonigal, like most non-disabled, nonelderly Medicaid recipients, had a job. Full time, too, at a chicken plant.

...More important, McGonigal’s prescription medication — funded by the state’s Medicaid expansion, since his job didn’t come with health insurance — kept his symptoms in check.

In the pile-on among Republican-controlled states to impose work requirements on ACA Medicaid expansion enrollees earlier this year, I somehow missed this one:

Wisconsin waiting to hear about requiring work, drug screening for Medicaid recipients

Wisconsin is still waiting to see if the federal government will let it require childless adults on Medicaid to be screened for drugs and work if they are able.

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration also asked in June to add premiums and co-pays for some adults without dependent children on Medicaid, which the federal government also must authorize.

The changes, which Walker said would help people move from public assistance to the workforce, can’t start until a year after approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

...Under Walker’s proposal, childless adults on Medicaid would have to submit to a drug test or enter drug treatment if drug screening called for it.

 

As I've written about many times before, my home state of Michigan is, unfortunately, among the states which are trying to institute work requirements for ACA Medicaid expansion for 680,000 Michiganders. As I've also written about many times before, work requirements for Medicaid are not only burdensome and cruel, they're counterproductive in terms of efficiency, economics and even in the stated goal of such programs, which is supposedly to "inspire" low-income people to get a job.

Michigan’s Medicaid Proposal Would Harm Low-Income Workers — And Can’t Be Fixed

Specifically, the Michigan bill, or any similar proposal, would:

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

--Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Yesterday CMS Administrator Seema Verma posted this on Twitter...

I’m excited by the partnerships that Arkansas has fostered to connect Medicaid beneficiaries to work and educational opportunities, and I look forward to our continued collaboration as we thoroughly evaluate the results of their innovative reforms. #TransformingMedicaid

— Administrator Seema Verma (@SeemaCMS) September 13, 2018

 

*As I explained 3 years ago:

Basically, Republicans have gone from saying "screw the poor" to "OK, you can see a doctor but only if you dance for me first."

ca·pri·cious (kəˈpriSHəs,kəˈprēSHəs/adjective): given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.

"a capricious and often brutal administration"

synonyms:fickle, inconstant, changeable, variable, mercurial, volatile, unpredictable, temperamental

HUGE. This doesn’t just impact Kentucky, it also has implications for Michigan, Ohio, Arkansas, Indiana...

Welp. There you have it. Via Jonathan Oosting of the Detroit News:

Snyder signs 80-hour Medicaid work requirement law

Most adult Medicaid recipients who receive health care insurance through the state’s Healthy Michigan plan will be required to work at least 80 hours per month or risk losing coverage under a new law signed Friday by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Five years after he led the push to expand Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act, Snyder signed the new work requirements over protests from Democrats and advocacy groups who decried it as a legislative effort to strip health insurance from low-income residents.

...“The original estimates were that 400,000 people without health care would be able to obtain it after the creation of Healthy Michigan, and today more than 670,000 people have coverage. I am committed to ensuring the program stays in place and that Michiganders continue to live healthier lives because of it.”

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