President Donald Trump’s administration has provided states with a new weapon to exact revenge on lazy poor people who have the temerity to be on the losing end of the American economy and also sometimes need to go to the doctor.
For the first time in the five-decade history of the Medicaid program, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will permit states to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries. The agency issued new guidance to states on Thursday on how to win federal approval for this restriction on Medicaid eligibility.
The vast majority of able-bodied, adult Medicaid recipients are in families where at least one adult is working and qualify for the program because they have low-paying jobs that may not even offer health benefits, let alone insurance these workers can afford.
And never mind that there are a lot of good, sometimes unavoidable reasons why even a part-time job isn’t an option for people who, say, have chronic illnesses not severe enough to constitute a disability; or who are caring for an ill or elderly relative; or who are full-time parents; or who are enrolled in school.
And the next time the unemployment rate spikes and people find themselves out of work and uninsured, these work requirements are going to make it even harder for them to keep their lives together.
The policy the Trump administration is enacting are based not on data but on an ugly stereotype many Americans hold about people who rely on Medicaid and other programs to get by. Accordingly, 70 percent of Americans said they supported work requirements in Medicaid in a survey the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation conducted in June.
Imagine Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen,” only this time she has diabetes and can’t be on her feet all day. The Trump administration’s solution to this woman’s problems is to make it harder for her to see a doctor and fill her prescriptions, so she gets sicker and is less likely to find steady work.