172 Dems ask Trump official to reject Medicaid work requirements

172 Dems ask Trump official to reject Medicaid work requirements
© Camille Fine

More than 170 House Democrats asked Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to reject requests from states to require Medicaid beneficiaries to work. 

"Such actions to tie health coverage to work are motivated purely on the basis of ideology and mistaken assumptions about what Medicaid is and who it covers," the Democrats wrote to Azar. 

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The administration recently approved Medicaid work requirements for Indiana and Kentucky. 

Azar and other HHS officials describe work requirements as a "pathway out of poverty." 

But Democrats argue such requirements are harmful. 

"The reality is that [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services'] recent actions ignore a fundamental truth: most of those who can work, are working, but may fall through the cracks and lose their coverage due to harsh and inflexible implementation of this ideologically-driven policy," they wrote. 

The approval of Indiana and Kentucky's requests marks the first employment-based restrictions on Medicaid. 

The requirements say "able-bodied" individuals under 60 years of age need to work at least 20 hours a week, be enrolled in school or participate in a job search program to receive benefits. 

There are exemptions if the beneficiary is pregnant, a primary caregiver, medically frail or receiving treatment for a substance use disorder.