The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the current administration is allowing states to make changes to their Medicaid programs. This is in contrast to the Obama administration, which required states to prove any changes would "increase and strengthen" healthcare for low-income citizens. Now, with a subtle shift in language, the states are welcome to pitch proposals that require drug testing, work requirements, volunteering, or entering a job training program for low-income people to qualify for benefits.
In a statement released Tuesday, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said:
Every American deserves the dignity and respect of high expectations and as public officials we should deliver programs that instill hope and say to each beneficiary that we believe in their potential. CMS believes that meaningful work is essential to beneficiaries’ economic self-sufficiency, self-esteem, well-being, and health of Americans.
Obama's administration denied requests from states trying to impose such barriers to Medicaid.
I’m not sure how denying coverage for people based on their inability to find work really meets the objective of providing health insurance to low-income individuals.
The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study in 2017 and found that only 27 percent of people receiving Medicaid were adults without disabilities, and of that 27 percent, 60 percent were already working. Among the small remaining percentage, many people lived in areas with few job opportunities, cared for a family member, or faced some other "major impediment."
Alice Ollstein, reporting for Talking Points Memo, laid out the differences in wording between the Obama administration's HHS requirements and the proposed changes CMM is introducing.
seema verma's insistence on work reqs for Medicaid is grisly. she knows that most Medicaid recipients are working, or are seeking work. it doesn't _save_ money—it just stigmatizes Medicaid recipients, strips away their privacy, and keeps them from accessing care. Disgusting— kill 💀 tim 💀 faust (@crulge) November 8, 2017
Aisling E. McDonough, a former health insurance administrator at the CMS in Washington D.C., didn't care for this statement from Verma:
We will not just accept the hollow victory of numbers covered [in the Obama Care program], but will dig deeper and demand more of ourselves and of you.
When we talk about 20 million more people being covered thanks to the ACA it's not about scoring political points or claiming "victories."— Aisling McDonough (@AislingMcDL) November 7, 2017
It's about those real people who can now get their cancer treated, prevent diabetes, get substance abuse.— Aisling McDonough (@AislingMcDL) November 7, 2017
It's about those people who can go to school, take care of their kids, pay their mortgage, without worrying about medical bankruptcies.— Aisling McDonough (@AislingMcDL) November 7, 2017
Covering 20M people is not a "hollow victory." Covering 20M people is one of the biggest ways we've made America a better place to live— Aisling McDonough (@AislingMcDL) November 7, 2017