public-policy newsletter

Medicaid Work Requirements Will Undermine Well-Being

January 18, 2018

Access to healthcare is a core human service that enables everyone in our communities to build and maintain emotional, physical, and financial well-being. This includes timely and reliable access to high-quality preventive care, as well as services that address differing health and wellness needs throughout life. When people are healthy, they are better equipped to learn, work, and engage with others, which contributes to a thriving nation where everyone can reach their full potential.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created a mechanism for state governments to undermine this essential building block of community well-being. HHS issued guidance that permits state Medicaid directors to impose work or work-related requirements for Medicaid recipients who are not older adults or pregnant, and do not have a disability.

Evidence suggests that mandatory work requirements would undermine the health and well-being of our country by making it harder for people to access timely physical and mental health services. That’s because any recipient who becomes subject to new work requirements but cannot meet them would be at risk of losing coverage. Even those eligible under the new requirements would face new hurdles to establishing their eligibility, which could result in delayed coverage or the loss of coverage. So far, ten states have submitted proposals to impose some form of work requirement on Medicaid recipients, and Kentucky is the first state to receive approval from HHS.

The human service sector must explain to state policymakers that these choices impact how well public resources and programs work together to build well-being, and that programs like Medicaid should be strengthened and expanded.