By Jennifer Wagner
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 19, 2019
A large majority of the more than 18,000 Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries who lost their Medicaid coverage since the state began implementing a first-in-the-nation Medicaid work requirement in June not only haven’t found jobs, but they also probably don’t have health insurance, new state data suggest.
Those who lost their Medicaid last year could have re-enrolled effective January 1, but only about 2,000 have done so. Some federal and state officials have argued that such low re-enrollment means that most who lost Medicaid have found jobs with health coverage, but there are no data to support the claim.
Asked what happened to the 18,000 Arkansans who lost coverage due to the work requirement, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told a House hearing last Tuesday that “we do not yet have data as to why they fell off the program.” At the Senate Finance Committee two days later, Azar pointed to the low share of people who lost coverage last year and re-enrolled in January and said, “That seems a fairly strong indication that the individuals who left the program were doing so because they got a job.”
But state data released on Friday show that very few beneficiaries who lost coverage found jobs. Of the 18,164 beneficiaries who lost coverage in 2018 for not complying with the work requirement, 1,981 had matches in the state’s New Hire Database, indicating they found new work. That means that for the more than 16,000 others who lost coverage, there is no evidence that they found new work.
Ruling on Medicaid work requirement expected by end of March, judge says
By Benjamin Hardy
Arkansas Times, March 14, 2019
(U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg) in the District of Columbia heard oral arguments Thursday morning in a lawsuit challenging Arkansas’s work requirement for certain Medicaid expansion beneficiaries.
“Congress has made its intent clear — Medicaid is a medical assistance program, not a work program,” the plaintiffs argued in a brief submitted in November. The purpose of the Medicaid program is “to furnish health care coverage to people who cannot otherwise afford it,” it says.
“It’s easy to talk about [the work requirement] in broad strokes that this will improve people’s lives, and that’s not for me to say. But that’s not the purpose of Medicaid,” the judge said in reply to government attorneys at one point during Thursday’s hearing.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
What kind of policy is it that when low-income individuals are unable to find jobs, the state punishes them by taking away their health care? The judge hearing the Medicaid work requirement case in Arkansas agrees, “that’s not the purpose of Medicaid”
Shouldn’t we instead have a public policy that says that anyone who needs health care should be able to receive it? That is not the case now, even though we are already spending enough to guarantee health care for everyone. We could do that merely by enacting and implementing a single payer Medicare for All program, and it doesn’t have to cost us any more than we are already spending.
It would be great if our government also supported more effective policies to ensure that every capable person has employment opportunities, but depriving people of their health care is not an effective work program, as Arkansas has demonstrated.
How can it be that we even tolerate such a cruel government policy?
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