Agency head warns of impact of Medicaid work requirement

By Steve Robb 

Ohio is expected to seek federal approval to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work, a move that will result in some people in poverty losing their health coverage and lead to additional administrative work for the Athens-County Department of Job and Family Services, according to agency Director Scott Zielinski.

“It’s going to affect our agency pretty drastically,” Zielinski told the Athens County Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

Ohio included language in its budget last year requiring the state to apply for a federal waiver to require able-bodied recipients to work, Zielinski said, adding it’s his understanding that as of Monday the waiver had not yet been requested.

Work requirements have already been added to Ohio’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known as “food stamps”) and cash assistance programs, and Zielinski said while requiring work seems like common sense he’s yet to see a study showing it benefited recipients.

“It serves no other purpose than to kick people off programs for various reasons,” Zielinski told the commissioners. “Each time you add a layer of bureaucracy to this, people fall off.”

That added layer of bureaucracy will also add to the workload of his department, without the agency getting additional funding to pay for it, Zielinski said.

President Donald Trump administration said earlier this month it would allow states to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work, although states can also require alternatives to work such as volunteering, caregiving, education and job training, according to an Associated Press report.

Seema Verma, head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the goal is to help people move from public assistance into jobs that provide health insurance, the AP reported.

“We see people moving off of Medicaid as a good outcome,” she said.

A poll last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 70 percent of the public favor allowing states to require Medicaid recipients to work, the AP reported.

According to the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a nonprofit anti-poverty organization, 60 percent of working-age adults on Medicaid are already working and 79 percent are in families with at least one worker.

“The reality is that less than half of people in this country receive health insurance through their jobs. Low-wage workers are particularly likely to work in industries which do not offer employer-sponsored insurance,” CLASP stated in a December 2017 fact sheet.

Also, Medicaid recipients will not only be disenrolled from Medicaid for not meeting work requirements, but also for not completing paperwork to prove they met the requirements.

“Work requirement enforcement systems are so cumbersome and bureaucratic that people are likely to lose coverage due to the complexity of the system, not because they are ineligible,” CLASP stated.