CHN: Work Requirements Threaten Benefit Recipients

Recent decisions and possible future action on adding work requirements to Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, housing, and other possible programs continue to threaten the access to needed benefits and services for low-income people. Kentucky and Indiana, for example, recently became the first two states allowed by the Trump administration to add work requirements to Medicaid benefits for low-income recipients. Under the accepted state proposals, “able-bodied” working-age adults will be required to work 20 hours a week or participate in other approved activities, such as going to school, in order to be allowed to keep their Medicaid health insurance coverage. According to CQ, state officials in Kentucky estimated that these work requirement proposals, also known as waivers, could reduce the number of people receiving Medicaid coverage by more than 95,000 over five years. At least nine other states have applied for similar waivers, and several other states are contemplating this move.

While the proposals claim to exempt those with disabilities, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) shows that these waivers will, in fact, have a significant detrimental impact on people with disabilities. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities also released two new pieces showing how Medicaid work requirements will reduce low-income families’ access to care and harm people with substance use disorders. The proposals were allowed after a shift in policy was laid out by the Trump administration in January. NHeLP, along with other organizations, filed a lawsuit challenging the waivers in Kentucky.

Medicaid isn’t the only federal program that may see the addition of work requirements. Speaking at a GOP policy retreat in early February, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) reportedly talked about the possibility of adding work requirements to SNAP/food stamp benefits, housing assistance, and other benefits for low-income recipients.

Advocates have long opposed the addition of such work requirements citing, among other reasons, that access to medical care, food, and housing are critical to keeping people healthy, which allows them to work. The Protect our Care Coalition said in a statement, “[T]he 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.” For more information on work requirements, see the January 11 Human Needs Report and this blog. To learn more about Medicaid waiver proposals being tracked in the states, click here.

Labor and Employment