Trump administration defends Medicaid work requirements after thousands knocked off program in Arkansas

By | November 27, 2018

The Trump administration will support Medicaid work requirements despite such rules resulting in more than 12,000 people being knocked out of the program in Arkansas, a top health official said Tuesday.

“We remain steadfast in our belief that this policy is important for the program,” Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicaid Services, said in breakfast meeting with reporters Tuesday.

The requirements stipulate that certain enrollees work, volunteer, or take classes in order to stay enrolled in Medicaid, which is paid for by states and the federal government. Arkansas was the first state to take on the program, and more than 12,000 people were kicked off Medicaid within the first five months.

Verma said that the agency was still evaluating the causes behind the disenrollment, but that the administration was supportive of crafting Medicaid in a way that helped people move out of poverty. In most states, people qualify for Medicaid if they make less than roughly $ 17,000 a year, an expansion of the program implemented through Obamacare.

“It’s not clear of the circumstances of why people left,” Verma said of Arkansas, noting that the economy was doing well and that it was possible people obtained coverage through a job and no longer needed Medicaid. It was also possible that people opted not to participate in the requirements for the program, she said.

People on Medicaid in Arkansas have to log their hours online, and if they fail to do so, they are taken out of the program and are not allowed to re-enroll until the following year. Verma said that the administration would be looking at how many people appeal the state’s decision to drop them from Medicaid coverage.

“Work contributes to positive health outcomes,” Verma said. “That’s an important objective of the Medicaid program: to improve health and health outcomes.”

A lawsuit is pending in Arkansas and at least eight other states have asked to implement similar requirements.