States that want to force Medicaid recipients to get a job before qualifying for healthcare have an ally in the Trump administration, according to remarks made on Tuesday by the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Speaking to the National Association of Medicaid Directors, Seema Verma gave a nod to the several states across the country that had hoped to enact Medicaid work requirements only to be shot down by the Obama administration.
“Those days are over,” Verma said in prepared remarks.
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“Believing that community engagement requirements do not support the objectives of Medicaid is a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration,” she added.
Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah, and Wisconsin are all seeking to implement work requirements on the low-income public health insurance program. The proposals would require non-disabled Medicaid recipients to get a job or engage in community service in order to receive health care benefits.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that about 60 percent of non-elderly, non-disabled Medicaid recipients are currently employed.
More than half of the states seeking waivers also accepted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, in which the federal government footed most of the bill for expanding the program’s reach to 11 million more people who make below $16,600 annually.
Verma suggested work requirements were an appropriate response to the expanded Medicaid population.
“The thought that a program designed for our most vulnerable citizens should be used as a vehicle to serve working age, able-bodied adults does not make sense,” she claimed, noting that the Obama administration “fought state led reforms that would’ve allowed the Medicaid program to evolve to meet the needs of these new individuals.”
New York Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson, who was on hand to hear Director Verma’s speech, told The Washington Post that her remarks were “completely reprehensible.”
“Shocked, appalled would be the two primary reactions I have,” he added.
Kentucky’s Medicaid chief Stephen Miller, however, said his state was “right in sync” with Verma. Miller told the Post he expects his Kentucky’s work requirement waiver to approved “soon.”