The head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, recently issued new guidance that’s designed to help states create programs to encourage "able-bodied, working-age Medicaid beneficiaries" to participate in skills training, education, job search, volunteering or care giving.
The USA Today reports in a recent article, “Trump administration opens the way for a Medicaid work requirement” that the orders would be a major paradigm shift in the manner in which the Medicaid program is administered. Medicaid is the government health care program for low-income people.
“Medicaid needs to be more flexible, so that states can best address the needs of this population," Verma said in a statement announcing an initiative that could affect millions. "Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries," she said.
Where there’s high unemployment, CMS said that beneficiaries could satisfy the requirements by caring for young children or elderly family members. States would be required to create ways to help beneficiaries meet the requirements and to help them find job training, provided they use non-Medicaid funds to do this. CMS is anticipated to begin approving state waivers promoting "community engagement activities" in coming weeks.
People are not legally required to hold a job to be on Medicaid. However, states traditionally can seek federal waivers to test new ideas for the program. CMS says 10 states have applied for waivers involving work requirements or community involvement: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.
The new order may see some legal challenges. Health groups and advocates for the poor claim that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services doesn’t have the power to grant such requests.
The new guidance states that pregnant women, disabled people, and the elderly should be excluded from the new requirements and that factors, including child care or elder care burdens should be considered. Undergoing substance abuse treatment should also be considered "community engagement" for people seeking to recover from addiction.
Reference: USA Today (January 11, 2018) “Trump administration opens the way for a Medicaid work requirement”
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