Arizona seeks to impose Medicaid work requirements

Arizona seeks to impose Medicaid work requirements
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Arizona is seeking to impose work requirements on many of its Medicaid beneficiaries under a new waiver submitted to the Trump administration this week.

The waiver would require able-bodied adults between the ages of 19 and 55 — with certain exemptions — to work, attend school or go to employment support and development programs for at least 20 hours a week.

Those who fall under the requirements would have six months to meet them before losing coverage, though they could re-enroll after complying.

The state is also proposing to impose a five-year lifetime limit on Medicaid for “able-bodied” people.

Arizona submitted a similar waiver last year, but it was rejected by the Obama administration.

However, state officials are likely to find success this year because the Trump administration has signaled they are much more open to the idea.

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According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, allowing states to impose work requirements is an essential part of granting them more flexibility.

The Obama administration repeatedly said work requirements were inconsistent with Medicaid’s mission of providing health care to low-income people.

But Verma has said that arguments against the work requirements are “a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration.”

ObamaCare allowed states to expand Medicaid to anyone making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $16,600 this year. As a result, 11 million people have gained coverage who would not otherwise have been eligible.

Conservatives believe the expansion discourages “able-bodied” people from working because it provides free health care.

According to Arizona, there are nearly 400,000 people, as of October, who would have to meet the work requirements. However, Arizona does not currently collect information on everyone who would be exempt from the requirements.

Some of those exemptions include American Indians, people with serious mental illness, domestic violence victims, people who are homeless, people over age 55 and a variety of other populations.

Under Arizona law, the state needs to seek permission from the federal government to impose Medicaid work requirements every year, as well as to enact the five-year lifetime limit.