Biden officials move to begin rescinding Medicaid work requirements

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The Biden administration on Friday moved to start the process of revoking Medicaid work requirements, one of the signature health care policies of the Trump administration that Democrats have long criticized as leading to coverage losses.

The Biden administration sent letters to states that had previously been approved for work requirements informing them that the federal government is moving to revoke the waivers that had been granted allowing the policy.

The letters from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) say the agency has “preliminarily” determined to revoke the policy and gives the states 30 days to provide information contesting the decision.

The letters state that the Biden administration “has serious concerns about testing policies that create a risk of a substantial loss of health care coverage in the near term,” and cite the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on health.

“In the midst of the greatest public health emergency in generations, now more than ever, people with Medicaid need access to care,” a CMS spokesperson said.

The Trump administration allowed states to apply for waivers to imposed work requirements in the Medicaid program for the first time, a major conservative twist on the health insurance program for the poor.

Officials led by Trump’s Medicaid chief Seema Verma argued the move helped lift people out of poverty.

Democrats have long blasted the idea, saying it adds bureaucratic obstacles and results in vulnerable people losing health coverage, contrary to the goals of the Medicaid program.

No state currently has a Medicaid work requirement in effect, given that courts have so far blocked the proposals. The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments on the policy in March.

In one state — Arkansas — where the requirements did temporarily take effect in 2018, more than 18,000 people lost health coverage before the program was halted by a court.

The Biden administration made the move Friday without fanfare, quietly posting letters to the states online.

Eight states had previously been approved for work requirements, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation tracker.

President Biden had directed Medicaid work requirements to be reexamined in a health care executive order last month.

“There’s nothing new that we’re doing here, other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became President, which by fiat he changed — made more inaccessible, more expensive, and more difficult for people to qualify for either of those two items: the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid,” Biden said then.


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