Top Dems call for end to Medicaid work rules after 18,000 lose coverage in Arkansas

Top congressional Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to stop approving work requirements for Medicaid programs after more than 18,000 people lost coverage last year due to the requirements in Arkansas.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse reaches deal on continuing resolution, vote expected Thursday Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns MORE (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Lobbying groups ask Congress for help on Trump tariffs MORE (D-Ore.) wrote to the administration that the requirements “threaten to impede access to critical care for millions of Americans.”

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“We unfortunately are now seeing these concerns play out in real life in the state of Arkansas where thousands of individuals have been forced off and locked out of their Medicaid coverage,” they added in the letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

Arkansas is the first state to implement work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, and more than 18,000 people were kicked off their coverage last year for failure to comply with the requirements.

The Democrats called on Azar to “put a halt to” approving more states to implement work requirements. Eight states have been approved already to implement the requirements.  

The Trump administration, which allowed work requirements in Medicaid for the first time starting last year, argues that the policy helps lift people out of poverty.

Democrats counter that the policy simply leads to people getting kicked off health coverage and that the administration is breaking the law by allowing the requirements without approval from Congress.

Lawsuits are currently progressing to challenge the work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters in November that she was “looking closely” at why thousands of people had lost coverage in Arkansas.

“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 at the time.