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 PalloneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate Work on surprise medical bills goes into overdrive Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — Alabama bill heats up fight over abortion | 2020 Dems blast bill | ACLU challenges Ohio abortion law | NC sues e-cig maker Juul | Flurry of activity on surprise medical bills MORE (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOregon man sentenced after threatening to chop off Dem senator's tongue House to vote on retirement bill next week Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to protect US networks from Chinese tech | Huawei downplays order | Trump declines to join effort against online extremism | Facebook restricts livestreaming | FCC proposes new tool against robocalls 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.