Many states will soon require that anyone who is receiving Medicaid will either need to work, actively be seeking employment, or volunteer in order to continue to receive this benefit program. It will only apply to able bodied adults who are physically and/or mentally able to hold down some type of job.
The changes are being put into place by Republican’s, so any state in which the legislature and/or government is Republican run will feel the impact first. As a reminder, there are currently about 75 million Americans who receive their health care from Medicaid. It is an assistance programs for very low-income individuals, children, the disabled, as well as elderly, many of which who would go with medical or dental care without this benefit.
Waivers are required
While the federal government will allow employment mandates as part of Medicare, each and every state will need to submit an application. This is known as a waiver. The changes that are bound to go into effect will only be for adults who meet the age and work requirements, and if they are considered to be able bodied. Therefore, if the individual is too sick, frail, or has other medical problems, this change would not apply to them. But no matter the case, there are a number of other government assistance programs for the poor.
There are three main reasons for this change by the government. The first one is that it encourages personal responsibility. This is a major theme of most Republican administrations. In general, they are not opposed to providing Medicare or any other public aid to low income families, but they want people to take accountability. In other words, nothing should be given out for free, but rather individuals need to do what they can to gain the benefit.
The second is to cut down on abuse in the system. While it is impossible to quantify, the fact is there are over 75 million people on Medicaid. This is over 20% of the entire population! In addition to that incredible number, the number of recipients has increased by over 30% since Obamacare went into effect. This is a very large number. A number of Republicans are asking is that huge increase called for, or is there some abuse occurring? The work requirement will help phase out any abuse that may be happening.
The Medicaid work requirement will also save the federal, as well as state governments, money. So budgetary changes are driving this change as well. The total cost of Medicaid is now approaching $600 billion dollars a year, as health insurance is costly! In addition, the total cost is going up a few percentage points per year, minimum.
The cost of Medicaid is unsustainable. The federal government, as well as states which pay for about 50% of the costs, will not be able to continue to fund this benefit program over the long term. This entitlement, which gives medical care to the uninsured, as well as others such as Food stamps, Medicare, disability, social security, etc. will bankrupt the government unless costs are sustained.
Long term impacts to work requirements
While of course no one knows, it would not surprise us if further benefit changes will be made as the years go by. Maybe Medicaid is the first. Others which we speculate on will be changes to social security retirement ages, more work requirements around SSI (for those able to work part time), privatization of some medical care benefits including Medicare, and more. We can guarantee Republicans will do what they can to control costs.
Anyone who receives Medicaid, or really any government benefits, should plan on more changes. They may need to work more in the future. Or volunteer in some capacity to give back to their community. Medicaid, and the 70+ million people on it, will be the first impacted but not the last!