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Report Calls Medicaid Work Requirement Catch-22

Report Calls Medicaid Work Requirement Catch-22
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Courtesy: State Div. Medicaid

A new study finds a Catch-22 in Mississippi's proposed plan to add a work to requirement to receiving Medicaid.

Mississippi's income limit is so low to qualify for Medicaid that a proposed work requirement would leave people earning too much to keep their health benefits. That's according to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Judith Solomon worked on the study. She says Medicaid recipients risk losing health benefits if they earn more than $370 a month. The proposal calls for recipients to work 20 hours per week.

"If a single parent with one child did manage to work 20 hours per week at minimum wage she would earn about $580 a month, still well below the poverty line, but still too much to qualify for Medicaid," said Solomon.

Solomon says that's the Catch-22. She says childcare and transportation are also challenges for many single mothers that would leave them unable to meet a work or job training requirement. Jameson Taylor with the Mississippi Center for Public Policy says the requirement isn't designed to penalize people. He says the federal government and states are collaborating on how to make community engagement apart of Medicaid. Taylor says they're looking at states to come up with innovative ways to help people. He says whether it's a job, volunteering, or going to school, the goal isn't to penalize Medicaid recipients.

"We're talking about people who aren't elderly, people that are not pregnant, people that are not disabled. So let's encourage able-bodied working age adults to be more engaged in their community and to get experience that's going to help them do better in their careers and help them improve their lives," said Taylor.

Taylor says there are exemptions being ironed-out that will address barriers to meeting the requirement. He says the federal government expects people to be able to keep their coverage and fulfill the community engagement plan.

Republican Senator Brice Wiggins, chair of the Medicaid Committee said in a statement, "With Medicaid being one of the largest budget items on the federal level and costing $6 billion on the state level, innovation and new ideas are necessary. Social programs like Medicaid when originally enacted by Congress were never meant to be permanent; they were to provide a hand up rather than a hand out. So, the fact that we are looking for new ideas in the program is a good thing."