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Trump Administration Gives States Power to Require Medicaid Recipients to Work

MP900424364The first step toward a GOP goal of overhauling Medicaid, a federal program that serves low-income Americans with healthcare, has begun.

New guidelines intended to assist states as they create programs to get healthy, working-age Medicaid beneficiaries into the workforce have been issued by Seema Verma, who heads up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The USA Today reports in a recent article, “Trump administration opens the way for a Medicaid work requirement” that the orders would be a major paradigm shift in the manner in which the Medicaid program is administered. Medicaid is the government health care program for low-income people.

“Medicaid needs to be more flexible, so that states can best address the needs of this population," Verma said in a statement announcing an initiative that could affect millions. "Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries," she said.

Where there’s high unemployment, CMS said that beneficiaries could satisfy the requirements by caring for young children or elderly family members. States would be required to create ways to help beneficiaries meet the requirements and to help them find job training, provided they use non-Medicaid funds to do this. CMS is anticipated to begin approving state waivers promoting "community engagement activities" in coming weeks.

People are not legally required to hold a job to be on Medicaid. However, states traditionally can seek federal waivers to test new ideas for the program. CMS says 10 states have applied for waivers involving work requirements or community involvement: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.

The new order may see some legal challenges. Health groups and advocates for the poor claim that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services doesn’t have the power to grant such requests.

Pregnant women, disabled people and the elderly should be excluded from the new requirements, according to the new guidance, and child care needs or elder care responsibilities should be considered when determining the Medicaid recipient’s ability to work.

Reference: USA Today (January 11, 2018) “Trump administration opens the way for a Medicaid work requirement”