Trump health chief 'looking closely' at thousands who lost Medicaid from work requirements

Trump health chief 'looking closely' at thousands who lost Medicaid from work requirements
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A top Trump administration health-care official on Tuesday said she is “looking closely” at why thousands of people have lost Medicaid coverage in Arkansas due to the state’s new work requirements, but indicated the administration would not slow down in implementing the new rules.

Asked if those people losing coverage is a weakness in the administration’s plan, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma told reporters Tuesday that her agency is still trying to understand why those people left the Medicaid program.

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Verma suggested there could be more benign explanations than simply that they are now uninsured. 

“We are looking closely at the people that have left the program to understand the reasons why they have left the program, and I think that’s going to give us a lot of lessons learned,” Verma said.

More than 12,000 people in Arkansas have lost health-care coverage through Medicaid for failing to meet new rules in the state touted by the Trump administration that require Medicaid recipients to work or perform other activities to keep their coverage.

Verma said it’s “very possible” that people left Medicaid coverage because they found a job or “decided that they didn’t want coverage,” or are choosing not to comply with the work requirements.

But a nonpartisan government commission on Medicaid warned about people in Arkansas losing coverage earlier this month and called for a “pause” in kicking more people off the program.

Democrats also oppose the work requirements, saying they are simply an excuse to kick people off the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid.

The Trump administration counters that work requirements are an important way to lift people out of poverty by incentivizing them to work.

Verma indicated Tuesday that her agency would not slow down in approving other states to implement work requirements, beyond the five states already approved.

“We have a long list of states that want to pursue this and want to move forward on helping people rise out of poverty so we think it’s important to allow them to do that,” she said.