Ky. becomes first state to require Medicaid recipients to work

Jan. 13 (UPI) — Kentucky has become the first state to require Medicaid recipients to work, one day after the Trump administration began allowing the change.

On Friday, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin announced the commonwealth has been approved to make certain recipients to hold jobs or other employment activities for 80 hours each month. The change becomes effective in July.

“It will be a model for the nation,” Bevin said at a news conference announcing the changes.

The work requirement will apply to working-age adults who are able-bodied and not pregnant, medically frail, full-time students or primary caregivers.

At least nine other states are seeking similar requirements with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. About 75 million low-income children, adults, elderly and disabled Americans are on Medicaid.

“There is dignity associated with earning the value of something you receive,” Bevin said.

He said Kentuckians want “an opportunity not to be put into a dead-end entitlement trap, but rather be put on a path forward and upwards so they can do for themselves.”

About 350,000 Kentucky residents will be subject to this mandate, but about half already work or are in other activities that would satisfy the requirement.

About one-third of Kentuckians are on Medicaid, including 500,000 low-income adults who signed up through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Kentucky officials have projected between 90,000 and 95,000 fewer people will be in the Medicaid program by the end of five-year waiver period, initially saving $2.4 billion during that time.

“Make no mistake: People will die because of this,” Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said in a statement. “Thousands of Kentucky families will face financial ruin. Governor Bevin and President Trump are creating an entirely unnecessary crisis in our commonwealth for entirely political reasons. It is an unconscionable attack on our state’s health, and I will continue to fight for every Kentuckian to get the health care they need and deserve.”

Consumer advocates plan to challenge the change in court.

“Work requirements for public benefits are harmful and don’t achieve their supposed goals of reducing poverty, promoting long-term economic advancement and making people healthier,” Dustin Pugel, policy analyst at the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy wrote in a blog post. “Cutting off peoples’ ability to get to a doctor when they need to only makes it harder for them to keep working, or find meaningful employment.”

He said it’s a “false premise that people covered by Medicaid are not working, or would be encouraged to increase their work hours if they were threatened with the prospect of losing health coverage through Medicaid.”

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