The Trump administration made a major health care policy shift by saying that states could impose work requirements for people on Medicaid.
According to federal officials, states would have the support of the administration if they wanted to make Medicaid recipients find work or engage in other “community engagement activities.”
“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,” said Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Think of it like food stamps
According to the New York Times, 10 states have floated the idea of work requirements: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.
Federal officials said that the program would be a lot like the work requirements for food stamps or welfare recipients.
“Believing that community engagement requirements do not support or promote the objectives of Medicaid is a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration,” Ms. Verma said. “Those days are over.”
It’s supposed to help overall mental health
Federal officials also argued that work requirements would help to combat depression. A 2013 Gallup poll, for example, found that unemployed Americans are twice as likely to need treatment for depression.
“Productive work and community engagement may improve health outcomes,” said Brian Neale, the director of the federal Medicaid office. “For example, higher earnings are positively correlated with longer lifespan.”
The Times did note, however, that “the Trump administration said that state Medicaid officials could not impose work requirements on pregnant women, elderly beneficiaries, children or people who were unable to work because of a disability.”
But others, like Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the move was nothing but “cruel.”
Pallone said that “the Trump administration’s action today is cruel and a clear violation of both the Medicaid statute and longstanding congressional intent” for waivers that were intended to “allow states to expand access to Medicaid, not restrict it.”