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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 Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 House Democrats criticize Texas's 'shortcomings in preparations' on winter storms House panel to probe conspiracy theories in the news MORE (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session Senate Democrats vote to provide 0 unemployment benefits into September 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.