Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they will allow states to apply for waivers to allow work requirements for “able bodied” Medicaid recipients. This is a radical shift in CMS policy that creates a hostile environment to government assistance with health coverage. Such a move creates numerous barriers to accessing care, penalizes individuals who have lost employment or have difficulty securing consistent employment by denying them health coverage, and undermines the purpose of Medicaid all together: assisting low-income people to obtain medical services.
Requiring work for Medicaid eligibility further alienates people just trying to make ends meet by punishing them through removing access to health care. Common sense tells us that in order to work and thrive, you must be healthy; taking away access to medications and medical care will only make folks sicker and less able to work in the future. Moreover, nearly 8 in 10 non-disabled adults with Medicaid coverage live in working families, and most are working themselves. The vast majority of those who are not working have health conditions, often caring for children or other family members who are ill or have a disability, or are in school.
Many individuals with chronic health conditions gained Medicaid coverage through the Medicaid expansion and may not be exempt from the work requirement because they don’t meet the strict federal disability criteria despite conditions that prevent them from working. They face significant challenges and requirements that can lead to the loss of health care — with potentially serious health consequences; it has been proven that work requirements are not the way to address these challenges or bolster future employment.
There is no evidence that a work requirement increases long-term employment, reduces poverty, or promotes positive health outcomes. These policies just create red tape and one more hoop to jump through before individuals can see a doctor and receive care, harming their health and well-being. Not only that, our state government is already stretched thin and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (i.e., our Medicaid agency) works hard to keep up with new technologies and systems that are constantly changing. But adding more bureaucracy is misguided and will only lead to more budget and backlog problems than we have now.
Protect Our Care Illinois calls on Governor Rauner to denounce this short-sighted and backwards policy and reassure low income people in Illinois that the state will not implement these cruel work requirements – but will instead continue to help meet the health needs of all Illinoisans so individuals can truly thrive without punitive strings attached.