Trump Policy Shift on Medicaid Work Requirement Could Affect Millions of People

Millions of low-income Americans could be affected by a major Trump administration policy change that would allow states to impose work requirements on people receiving Medicaid, the government-run health insurance program for the poor, disabled and other disadvantaged groups.

Medicaid covers more than 70 million people, or about 1 in 5 Americans. Many of them have jobs that don't provide health insurance. Medicaid recipients don't have to be employed to be in the program, but states can seek federal waivers to test new ways to manage Medicaid.

In a major policy shift, the Trump administration has told states what they should consider to obtain federal waivers for work requirements for "able-bodied" adults on Medicaid. While these waivers would be classified as "demonstration projects," they would actually impose new work requirements, the Associated Press reported.

Ten states have applied for work or community involvement-related Medicaid waivers: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

The Trump administration plan is likely to face significant political opposition and even legal challenges, according to the AP.

"Medicaid needs to be more flexible so that states can best address the needs of this population," Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement.

"It is a very major change in Medicaid that for the first time would allow people to be cut off for not meeting a work requirement, regardless of the hardship they may suffer," Judy Solomon of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an advocacy group for the poor, told the AP.

Nearly 60 percent of Medicaid recipients either work full- or part-time, mainly in jobs that don't provide health insurance, according to a study by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Most jobless Medicare recipients say they're unable to work due to reasons such as illness, caring for a family member or going to school. Some say Medicaid coverage has made it possible for them to get healthy enough to go back to work, the AP reported.

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