Policy Matters opposes Medicaid work requirements
Posted March 01, 2018 in Press Releases
Today Policy Matters Ohio joined activists, advocates and health care providers to oppose a new and dangerous barrier to health care in the state.
With encouragement from the Trump Administration, the state is applying to the federal government for a 1115 waiver to require all of the 700,000 Ohioans who receive health insurance through Medicaid expansion to hold a job or participate in some form of “community engagement activity.” The state projects the new requirement will cause more than 18,000 people to lose health coverage. Senior Project Director Wendy Patton spoke at the second public hearing on the proposal. She testified that the work requirements aren’t necessary, don’t make sense in today’s low-wage job market, put an unfair burden on patients and could be unconstitutional.
Sixty-one percent of Medicaid patients already work, she said. The rest are either students, people with disabilities, early retirees, job seekers or people caring for a loved one with a disability. Many work in low-paying industries like retail or fast food, which offer low and inconsistent hours and little or no paid leave. Patients could easily fall short of the 80-hour-a-month work requirement.
“Tragically, those who lose hours because they are sick or caring for a sick child could lose health coverage,” Patton said. “Those in temporary, intermittent or seasonal jobs are at particular risk for losing eligibility.”
While the proposal allows for exemptions, it’s up to enrollees to prove they qualify. For people who can’t afford a car or computer, keeping up with the paperwork can be a time and money drain, Patton said.
Patton said the waiver proposal’s “community engagement activities” could constitute employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This would require that participants get paid the federal minimum hourly wage. But unlike other programs with work requirements, Medicaid has no mechanism to ensure people are compensated. It could also violate the 13thAmendment of the Constitution, which prohibits involuntary servitude, she said.
Ohio will submit the proposal after the public comment period ends on March 18.