Medicaid work requirements are common sense

The Trump administration wants to require Medicaid recipients to work in exchange for their benefits. That means working, volunteering, attending school, or job training for 80 hours a month. Yet this reasonable reform has provoked howls of outrage from progressives, who say the requirements would deprive low-income people of healthcare.

This outrage is unjustified. The majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are perfectly capable of getting a job: About 60 percent are of working age and not disabled. Of those, however, about half don’t work, and only about 1 in 5 works full time. What’s more, roughly 6.8 million of the 12.4 million Medicaid enrollees added under Obamacare’s expansion don’t work, according to the Foundation of Government Accountability.

Medicaid is breeding mass dependency. The program is meant to serve as a backstop for the truly disadvantaged. It’s not supposed to be a replacement for a job. Physically able enrollees ought to work in exchange for their benefits.

Other welfare programs already require beneficiaries to get jobs. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides families with cash support, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income people purchase food, both impose some sort of work requirements.

An extensive body of research shows that having a job boosts mental and physical well-being. So work requirements could help Medicaid enrollees get off government assistance and become productive, happy, and self-sufficient members of society.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it would allow states to start imposing such requirements in their local Medicaid programs. About a dozen states have applied and four — Indiana, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Arkansas — have already been approved.

Progressives immediately decried the unspeakable cruelty of demanding that healthy adults participate in the economy in exchange for taxpayer dollars. The fringe Left has found an ally in the court. Last month, a federal judge blocked the implementation of work requirements in Kentucky’s Medicaid program, claiming that administration officials “never adequately considered whether [work requirements] would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens.”

This is hogwash. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is determined to find a way forward by opening a new 30 day comment period on the Kentucky plan. Work requirements haven’t fatally undermined public assistance in other programs. They won’t in health coverage. The Trump administration is on the right course.

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Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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