Don’t make the poor work for health care

The Trump administration just won’t learn its lesson. Fresh off some of the most detested policymaking in American history, the White House is about to turn to another unpopular conservative obsession: Work requirements.

Republicans have long argued that too many able-bodied adults are getting a free ride from the government. During the Obama years, they took specific issue with the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, the government program that provides health coverage to the poor, which they said benefited lots of adults who should have been working in exchange for help. Indeed, since Medicaid is jointly administered by the federal and state governments, states can apply for waivers to impose work requirements on the program. Nine states did, but the Obama administration always turned them down.

But the Trump White House is changing course. It is reportedly finalizing guidelines for what circumstances under which they’ll approve the waivers — and will quite likely announce a batch of approvals soon as well.

Let’s not mince words: This is a stupid and terrible policy decision. How stupid and terrible? Let’s count the ways:

1. A sizable majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already work. Despite ObamaCare’s expansion, almost two-thirds of Medicaid’s 68 million beneficiaries are still either children, the elderly, or people on disability. Among the remaining adults, 60 percent are already working. The remainder — about 9.8 million people — have good reasons not to be in the workforce. Fifteen percent of them are going to school, and 30 percent are taking care of other family members. Another 36 percent report being too sick or disabled to work, though they haven’t qualified for disability benefits (which, it’s worth remembering, have a pretty strict threshold). Americans on Medicaid are also far more likely to be in low-wage jobs that involve lots of manual labor, as opposed to desk jobs where something like a back problem might not be prohibitive.

In short, only 7.5 percent of Medicaid’s non-elderly, non-disabled adult beneficiaries aren’t working, and can’t cite school, family, or physical ailment as a reason.

2. There aren’t enough jobs. If you’re going to require people to work, it seems obvious you need to make sure enough jobs are available. Yet America chronically fails to do this. At the peak of the Great Recession, there were 6.7 job seekers for every available job. Eight years later, that ratio is finally …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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