Medicaid Work Requirements Harm Everyday Americans

Washington, DC, January 11, 2018 – The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) strongly condemns today’s decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid. CLASP contends that such requirements are illegal and do not support the goals of Medicaid. Contrary to CMS’s statements, work requirements as a condition of eligibility for Medicaid will only serve as a barrier to health care for everyday Americans working in low-wage jobs.

Studies have shown that access to Medicaid makes it easier for people to look for work and obtain employment. A so-called “work requirement” does not support work but instead puts a critical support for work at risk. CLASP Senior Policy Analyst Suzanne Wikle notes: “When people are not healthy or able to access needed medications they are less likely to be able to work. If proponents of work requirements are serious about helping people find work, they would invest in skill training and workforce development programs rather than increasing red tape and making it harder for people to access health care.”

CMS’s action today will result in increased bureaucracy and red tape—costly and time consuming to states and Americans enrolled in Medicaid. We know from experience with other public support programs that eligible people who are already working or deemed exempt from working are likely to lose coverage simply because of having to complete additional paperwork and overcome enrollment hurdles—not because they are ineligible for the program. Today's announcement does nothing to increase availability of job training services or key supports like child care, which already have insufficient funding to serve those who seek assistance.

Many people who are insured through Medicaid are working low-income jobs with unpredictable and irregular hours. The reality is that many low-income jobs do not fit into the “9 to 5” box. The complications of juggling low-wage work schedules and other obligations in life (care for children or aging parents) make the extra paperwork for work requirements a burden for everyday Americans who are doing their best to make ends meet.

The Trump Administration is the first to approve work requirements for Medicaid. All previous administrations have rightfully rejected the idea and deemed it out of line with the objectives of Medicaid. CLASP stands ready with our partners to fight back against new policies and procedures that limit access to Medicaid.