Peo­ple are free-rid­ing on Med­i­caid.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

The White House’s Kellyanne Con­way is among those who have pro­moted this myth, telling Fox News this past week that Med­i­caid has ex­panded be­yond the truly needy. “If you’re able-bod­ied and you would like to go and find em­ploy­ment and have em­ployer-spon­sored ben­e­fits, then you should be able to do that” and not rely on Med­i­caid, she said.

His­tor­i­cally, Med­i­caid has not re­quired re­cip­i­ents to work, but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have pro­posed a pro­vi­sion to en­cour­age states to link ben­e­fits to work. “We be­lieve it’s im­por­tant for folks to have a job, that they con­trib­ute not just to so­ci­ety but they con­trib­ute to their own well-be­ing,” Health Sec­re­tary Tom Price said in March.

Th­ese re­quire­ments, how­ever, would not change much. Most Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents who can work, do. Al­most two-thirds have full­time or part-time jobs, and more than three­quar­ters come from fam­i­lies where some­one has a job. (Th­ese jobs, though, tend to be in low-pay­ing sec­tors, such as agri­cul­ture and food ser­vice, where em­ployer-spon­sored health in­sur­ance is gen­er­ally not an op­tion.)

More­over, Med­i­caid is not a pro­gram that largely cov­ers peo­ple who can “go and find em­ploy­ment.” Only 30 per­cent of en­rollees are able-bod­ied adults, con­sti­tut­ing 20 per­cent of spend­ing. Chil­dren make up nearly half of en­rollees (44 per­cent), while the aged and dis­abled ac­count for more than half of spend­ing (60 per­cent).

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