Medicaid rules could change

Crit­ics say re­quir­ing able-bod­ied adults to work for cov­er­age will spark law­suits

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - Ja­son Stein Milwaukee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - WIS­CON­SIN

MADI­SON - Tens of thou­sands of needy but able-bod­ied adults in Wis­con­sin could have to work to qual­ify for state health cov­er­age un­der a plan from Gov. Scott Walker that has won sup­port from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Walker im­me­di­ately praised the move, which he said would spur more Wis­con­sinites to work and which crit­ics said would spur law­suits.

Seema Verma, head of the fed­eral Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medicaid Ser­vices, opened the way this week for states to re­quire “able-bod­ied, work­ing-age Medicaid ben­e­fi­cia­ries” to par­tic­i­pate in skills train­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, job search, vol­un­teer­ing or caregiving.

“Medicaid needs to be more flex­i­ble so that states can best ad­dress the needs of this pop­u­la­tion,” Verma said in a state­ment. “Our fun­da­men­tal goal is to make a pos­i­tive and last­ing dif­fer­ence in the health and well­ness of our ben­e­fi­cia­ries.”

Walker and his fel­low GOP gov­er­nors in nine other states have sought to im­pose work and train­ing re­quire­ments on the Medicaid pro­gram known in Wis­con­sin as BadgerCare. But to do it they needed the back­ing of fed­eral of­fi­cials.

Jon Pea­cock, re­search direc­tor of the ad­vo­cacy group Kids For­ward, said he ex­pected the de­ci­sion to spark a fed­eral law­suit from op­po­nents. He said the deal would hurt needy col­lege stu­dents and adults car­ing for el­derly par­ents and would do less to get peo­ple work­ing than ad­dress­ing other prob­lems like a lack of trans­porta­tion.

“If pro­po­nents of work re­quire­ments truly want to help peo­ple find work, they should invest in things like skills train­ing and im­proved ac­cess to child care, rather than in­creas­ing red tape and mak­ing it harder for peo­ple to ac­cess health care,” Pea­cock said.

Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee spokes­woman Mandy McClure blasted

the pro­pos­als, call­ing them “in­hu­mane.” She said the vast ma­jor­ity of Medicaid re­cip­i­ents ei­ther work al­ready or face an ob­sta­cle to em­ploy­ment such as a dis­abil­ity or ad­vanced age.

“This is noth­ing but yet an­other ex­cuse for Repub­li­cans to try to kick peo­ple off of their health in­surance,” McClure said.

Walker and GOP law­mak­ers ap­proved leg­is­la­tion last year to move for­ward with work and drug test­ing re­quire­ments, which to­gether could af­fect a large num­ber of state res­i­dents. Start­ing in April 2019, the changes could af­fect 148,000 child­less adults in Wis­con­sin with in­comes be­low the fed­eral poverty level — $12,060 a year for a sin­gle adult.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion put cer­tain lim­its on Medicaid work re­quire­ments, say­ing states needed to ex­clude preg­nant women, the dis­abled and the el­derly and make al­lowances for re­cip­i­ents who are un­der­go­ing treat­ment for sub­stance abuse.

Walker’s pro­posal ap­pears to meet all or most of those re­quire­ments al­ready, leav­ing the Wis­con­sin plan likely to win ap­proval from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in the com­ing weeks. But ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment­ing the plan and over­com­ing any le­gal chal­lenges to it could take con­sid­er­ably longer.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, ac­com­pa­nied by Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at a work­force de­vel­op­ment round­table in June at Wauke­sha County Tech­ni­cal Col­lege in Pe­wau­kee.

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