Arkansas has dropped 4,353 people who did not meet work requirements from its Medicaid plan, state officials announced Sept. 12. They said another 5,000 people on the program could lose coverage if they don’t meet requirements by the end of the month. But three months into the program, the majority of the 62,000 people under the requirement have met the standards or were exempt.
“Compassion and common sense says that this is a good program for those who are trying to move up the economic ladder and better themselves,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican.
In January, President Donald Trump said states could impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. In April, he signed an executive order, “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility”—that stated “the Federal Government’s role is to clear paths to self-sufficiency, reserving public assistance programs for those who are truly in need.”
But some states have run into problems implementing work requirements. Kentucky tried to establish work requirements in July. Under the policy, similar to Arkansas’ plan, Medicaid recipients would be required to complete 80 hours of work, job training, volunteering, or education per month or prove they qualify for an exception. Exceptions included parents with children at home, the disabled, those already working, and those in school full time. Drug addiction treatment could also qualify.
A federal district judge blocked Kentucky’s plan days before it took effect. He said state officials had not considered the estimated 95,000 who would lose coverage with Kentucky work requirements.
But advocates argue the requirements are only necessary because the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid to able-bodied, nonpregnant, nonelderly, nondisabled people, and the requirements send an important message to those recipients.
“At its core, this is a debate over the purpose of the social safety net,” wrote American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael R. Strain in an editorial for Bloomberg. “Among healthy, working-age adults who aren’t the primary caregiver for a dependent, public policy should be designed to combat idleness, to increase community attachment, and to increase work rates. Medicaid work requirements aren’t punitive. Instead, they reflect proper social expectations. They send a message that if you can contribute to society, then you should. That message matters.”
As of last Friday, the federal government has approved work requirements for Medicaid recipients in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, and New Hampshire, while eight other states have applied for similar waivers, according to The New York Times. —Charissa Crotts