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Trump administration defends Medicaid work requirements

Trump administration defends Medicaid work requirements
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A top health official in the Trump administration defended Medicaid work requirements Thursday, arguing that its intent isn't to expel people from the program.

"Community engagement requirements are not some subversive attempt to just kick people off of Medicaid," Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a speech in Washington, D.C. "Instead, their aim is to put beneficiaries in control with the right incentives to live healthier, independent lives."

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More than 4,300 people lost their Medicaid coverage in Arkansas this month for not adhering to the new rules.

Verma's comments come as the administration defends itself against a lawsuit targeting its approval of the Arkansas work requirements. Hearings for the case, filed by the National Health Law Program, have not yet been scheduled.

Verma referenced the Arkansas program in her remarks, repeating an assertion from the state's governor that it helped 1,000 people gain employment.

"Imagine the impact that this has had on the lives of those individuals and their families," Verma said. 

Arkansas became the first state, in Medicaid's 53-year history, to strip coverage from beneficiaries for not meeting work requirements.

The Trump administration has also approved work requirements in Indiana and New Hampshire that are slated to take effect next year. A similar program in Kentucky was struck down this summer by a federal judge.

Verma said the administration would "closely" monitor implementation in Indiana and New Hampshire and ensure independent evaluations are conducted.

"But we also will not draw rash conclusions after only a few months of data and information," she said.

Eight other states are asking the administration to approve work requirements. Verma indicated Thursday that more requests will be approved.

"We are committed to this issue and we are moving closer to approving even more state waivers," she said.