States Get Green Light to Propose Medicaid Work Requirements

It's official: The Trump administration has formally endorsed the policy of work requirements for healthy Medicaid recipients. For years states have sought this flexibility to help beneficiaries of Medicaid—government-run health insurance for the poor and disabled—transition to independence. For years the Obama administration denied those requests.

For example, in 2014 Pennsylvania requested work as a condition of Medicaid expansion to low-income, healthy adults under Obamacare. That request was unsurprisingly rejected, but states kept asking.

To date, ten states have submitted waivers seeking to connect taxpayer-funded health insurance with work. Experts believe one of these waivers will be approved soon, promptly followed by a lawsuit.

There is no question the public supports work requirements for healthy adults on government assistance. A Kaiser poll found 70 percent of Americans support connecting work and Medicaid.

The controversy is whether the goal of Medicaid is undermined by prioritizing work. In short, absolutely not. The goal of Medicaid and all welfare programs is to help our most vulnerable achieve independence. Care, dignity and independence come through work and a reliable income.

Last year, in response to proposed work-oriented welfare reforms in the Pennsylvania House, Gov. Wolf's spokesman J.J. Abbott said:

“Governor Wolf has consistently voiced his strong opposition to any legislative changes that could have widespread and potentially life-changing effects on the health and well-being of millions of Pennsylvanians.”

In other words, the governor seems opposed to helping lift tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. An estimated 490,000 healthy Pennsylvanians without young kids on Medicaid are not working.

Most importantly, moving these individuals into the workforce would be a tremendous boon to their standard of living, not to mention the statewide economy as a whole. It's time restore the dignity of work.