Pa. Legislature Sends Landmark Anti-Poverty Reform to Gov. Wolf

October 17, 2018, Harrisburg, Pa.—Today, the Pennsylvania Legislature sent a landmark anti-poverty bill to Governor Wolf’s desk. HB 2138 will help healthy, childless adults enrolled in Medicaid move from dependency to self-sufficiency through work or volunteer requirements.

“By sending this bill to the governor’s desk, lawmakers are stating loud and clear that their goal is to end the cycle of poverty for able-bodied Pennsylvanians,” said Charles Mitchell, president and CEO of Commonwealth Foundation. “Work requirements are proven to help people move off the welfare rolls and take advantage of our growing economy.”

This week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job openings rose to 7.14 million, the highest on record. Work requirements create a pathway for people to take advantage of this historic demand for labor.

“The benefits of work requirements are far reaching,” explained Mitchell. “By bringing tens of thousands of healthy adults back into the workforce, we’ll ease our current labor shortage, raise family incomes, increase state and local tax revenues, and free up Medicaid resources for the disabled.

“With Medicaid costs growing each year, incentivizing work for able-bodied, childless adults will help ensure that this program can continue for the people who truly need it.”

Currently, 17 states have implemented similar laws for SNAP with consistent positive results.

For example, Kansas and Maine have strengthened SNAP work requirements and beneficiaries in those programs saw their incomes more than double. Overall, food stamp enrollment for healthy adults dropped by 75 percent in Kansas and 80 percent in Maine after reforms were implemented.

Due to their common-sense benefits, these reforms maintain bi-partisan support. Nationally, 79 percent of voters support work requirements for healthy adults on food stamps. In Pennsylvania, two-thirds of likely voters support work and community service requirements for healthy adults on Medicaid.

(Graphic: PA Voters Support Medicaid Work Requirements)

According to DHS approximately 20 percent of the Medicaid population is non-working, healthy adults. That amounts to 490,000 people, the population of Harrisburg, Lancaster, Allentown, Erie, Scranton, and Reading combined. 

HB 2138, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Dowling, instructs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to craft a waiver seeking authority from the federal government to implement Medicaid work requirements for able-bodied adults.

“We applaud Rep. Dowling and the lawmakers who supported this bill,” continued Mitchell. “If Governor Wolf truly cares about winning the fight against poverty, he should sign it immediately. There is no better time than now to help people gain the independence of a paycheck and the dignity of work.”

To learn more, read our policy brief of Medicaid work requirements here.

Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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