By Yasmeen Abutaleb
WASHINGTON( Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Thursday it would allow states to test requiring some Medicaid recipients to work or participate in community activities such as volunteering or jobs developing as a condition of eligibility for the government health insurance program for the poor.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service issued guidance building it easier for states to design and propose exam programs that implement such requirements. States must propose such changes through waivers and receive federal approval.
Seema Verma, the agency’s administrator, said the policy guidance came in response to requests from at least 10 states that have proposed need some Medicaid recipients to work or participate in activities that may include skills training, education, job search, volunteering or caregiving. Those states include Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Arizona, Indiana and Utah.
Certain Medicaid populations would be exempt from the rules, including those with disabilities, the elderly, children and pregnant women. Verma also said states would have to stimulate “reasonable modifications” for those battling opioid craving and other substance employ disorders.
“This devotes us a pathway to start approving waivers, ” Verma said on a bellow with reporters on Wednesday. “This is about helping those individuals rise out of poverty.”
Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy accomplishment commonly known as Obamacare, 31 states expanded Medicaid to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, adding millions of people to the rolls.
Republicans have repeatedly failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, a top campaign promise of President Donald Trump. Instead, the Trump administration has sought to weaken the program through executive orders and administrative rules.
The Obama administration opposed nation efforts to implement work requirements in Medicaid because it could result in fewer people having access to health insurance.
For instance, Kentucky last year proposed work requirements for able-bodied adults to get insurance and establishing new fees for all members based on income. A study determined the proposal would reduce the number of residents on Medicaid by virtually 86,000 within five years, saving more than $330 million.
Republicans argue that Medicaid was created to serve the most vulnerable and has become bloated under Obamacare. Verma and other Republican said implementing work and community engagement requirements could help improve health outcomes by connecting people with jobs and training.
( Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Peter Cooney)