One of the reasons (and there are several) Donald Trump won the White House was his promise not to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
This made him very popular among his base, many of whom are beneficiaries of the social welfare programs Republicans always vow to eliminate.
In fact, Trump proudly spent his entire presidential campaign boasting about how he was the only candidate who would protect the social safety net.
Fast forward to Thursday when the Trump administration announced it would allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid.
Federal officials said they would support state efforts requiring capable adults to work or participate in other “community engagement activities” in order to be eligible for one of the nation’s largest social insurance programs for low-income Americans, affecting 74 million Americans.
Seema Verma, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said:
“Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today’s announcement is a step in that direction.”
Under the new policy, officials would impose Medicaid work requirements similar to other programs’ like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a.k.a. food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Ms. Verma said the administration’s decision stemmed from Medicaid officials’ requests to run demonstrations testing requirements for work or community engagement, such as training, education, job search, volunteering, and caregiving.
These activities produce little to no earning potential for participants.
The Medicaid change proposals came from Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.
Several other states are also considering work requirements.
In Kentucky, the waiver application seeks to require most non-disabled Medicaid beneficiaries age 19 to 64 to work at least 20 hours a week.
Exempt would be pregnant women, full-time students, people determined to be too frail to perform work, and primary caretakers of children under 19 or disabled adult dependents.
But the whole object of Medicaid is to provide low-income Americans, most of whom are already working low-wage jobs, with health insurance if their employers do not provide it.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, calls the policy “cruel and a clear violation of both the Medicaid statute and longstanding congressional intent.”
He argues state waivers are intended to “allow states to expand access to Medicaid, not restrict it.”
Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of Protect Our Care, a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) advocacy group, said the new policy is “the latest salvo of the Trump administration’s war on health care.”
“A majority of adults covered by Medicaid who can work, do work — often two or three jobs in fields like the service industry that are less likely to offer insurance.”
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Judy Solomon, argued:
“It is a very major change in Medicaid that for the first time would allow people to be cut off for not meeting a work requirement, regardless of the hardship they may suffer.”
A study from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation found almost 60% of working-age adults on Medicaid are employed. Most unemployed are because of illness, caring for a family member, or attending college.
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