In January, the Trump administration decided to allow states to “impose work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.” This was intended to bring the Medicaid program in line with other federal initiatives like welfare and food stamps. The new ruling has only been enacted in Arkansas, but Kansas was ready to join in just a few days ago until a federal judge put the kaput on their plan.
The federal government changed course on decades of precedent in this case, so it’s no surprise that there was a lot of pushback. Opinions are mixed of course, and like most things these days they run directly along party lines.
For conservatives, the move is one to be celebrated. For years conservatives have pushed back against social safety-net programs like welfare, food stamps, and now even Medicaid. The fact that states are going through with the plan seems to validate their opinion.
But 16 Kentuckians are pushing back against the new ruling, saying that it goes directly against the basic principle of Medicaid – to provide decent healthcare for those with low-incomes or who are struggling.
A District Court judge ruled on this case and sided entirely with the plaintiffs. Judge James Boasberg said that those creating the laws weren’t considering the actual impact on the people of the state.
“The record shows that 95,000 people would lose Medicaid coverage, and yet the Secretary paid no attention to that deprivation,” he said in his decision.
Medicaid currently insures one in five Americans, or around 75 million people total. So the debate over whether Medicaid should be restricted is important to a huge portion of our communities. The debate, in general, has expanded, with the nation clearly undecided on whether healthcare is a right, or whether it should be earned.
Those who support the bill say that work requirements will actually benefit those on Medicaid, rather than the other way around. The statistics say higher earnings lead to longer lives, and unemployment leads to earlier deaths. Supporters of this bill use this argument to say that forcing Medicaid recipients to get a job would benefit them in the end due to these statistics.
But the Kentucky ruling made the judges opinion on this sort of argument very clear. The judge argued that the correlation actually works the other way around, as medical problems are very often the reason these people lose their gainful employment in the first place.
At the heart of this issue is a conflict relevant to every single American: Should healthcare be seen as a right, rather than a benefit?
A big part of their support for these work-based requirements are the financial difficulties behind these Medicaid expansions. Uninsured people still receive medical care, and they are far less likely to actually pay for it than those on a Medicaid coverage plan. So the fiscal benefits of having fewer people on Medicaid need to be examined with those statistics in mind as well.
Right now, these new work requirements are up in the air due to this judge’s ruling. What do you think about this contentious situation?