Rep. Kennedy presses Trump health official on Medicaid work requirements

Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyThe Hill's 12:30 Report: What we learned from first impeachment transcripts Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid Ocasio-Cortez points to California fires: 'This is what climate change looks like' MORE III (D-Mass.) in a tense exchange Wednesday pressed the head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs to explain why she has allowed states to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries.

Kennedy asked Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to point to any study that backs up the administration’s argument that work requirements make people healthier.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Healthier people might work, work doesn’t necessarily make people healthier,” Kennedy, who is running a primary campaign to unseat Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenators grill safety regulator over self-driving cars Hillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract House, Senate announce agreement on anti-robocall bill MORE (D-Mass.), said. “You are imposing policies on millions of people across this country. Can you show me one study that says that is a good policy?”

Work requirements are a central feature of the Trump administration’s vision to transform the Medicaid program. Officials argue that work requirements are a pathway out of poverty, and provide an incentive for people to work.

Under ObamaCare, states were given the option to expand Medicaid to childless low-income adults who didn’t previously qualify for the program.

The Trump administration says that “able-bodied” adults should work instead and that Medicaid should be reserved for children, people who are pregnant, adults who are disabled and very-low-income residents.

The Trump administration has approved work requirements in 10 states to date, and seven more are awaiting approval. 

In Arkansas, 18,000 people lost Medicaid coverage as a result of the state's work requirements before they were struck down by a federal judge. 

Kennedy asked Verma if she considers it a “success” that so many people have lost their health care.

“I think it's premature to draw conclusions about Arkansas’s program. The program was in effect for 10 months,” Verma said. 

“18,000 people lost their health care. How many more people have to lose their health care before you can make a determination?” Kennedy responded incredulously.