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 PalloneDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Democrats say they're waiting for nearly 50 requests for Trump info on science, environment Trump pressed to follow through on vaping crackdown MORE (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFalling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts Overnight Health Care: CDC links vitamin E oil to vaping illnesses | White House calls Pelosi drug price plan 'unworkable' | Dem offers bill for state-based 'Medicare for All' White House says Pelosi plan to lower drug prices 'unworkable' 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.