A group of Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries is suing the federal government. They claim the Trump administration’s decision to allow Arkansas to impose work requirements on all able-bodied adult Medicaid recipients restricts their access to healthcare.
That’s nonsense. The requirement that able-bodied adult recipients spend 80 hours a month working, training for a job, searching for a job, attending school, or volunteering is hardly burdensome. It’s entirely reasonable to ask able-bodied welfare recipients to show some initiative and help themselves.
Medicaid was intended as a safety net program for the nation’s indigent poor, who have nothing to fear from the work requirement. The vast majority of Medicaid recipients in Arkansas, such as those who are “medically frail, pregnant, or face short-term incapacitation or are caring for an incapacitated person,” aren’t even subject to the requirement. It impacts fewer than 30 percent of recipients.
Most of the people affected have sought out employment opportunities, just as officials intended when they rolled out the requirement in June. According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, by mid-September more than 1,000 individuals found jobs. As of October, about three-quarters of Medicaid recipients subject to the requirements met them.
Moving people from welfare to work is the only way to sustainably shrink the bloated Medicaid program, which has become even more burdensome for taxpayers in recent years. Obamacare permitted 36 states and Washington, D.C., to extend coverage to millions of able-bodied adults. The average non-disabled, non-elderly adult recipient costs their respective state and the federal government a combined $3,300 a year. The 9 million non-disabled, working-age Medicaid recipients who work zero hours a week cost about $30 billion annually.
Those that are unwilling to join the workforce shouldn’t receive taxpayer-funded handouts. Work requirements ensure that only those who truly need government assistance receive it.