- Associated Press - Monday, November 13, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia is considering adding employment requirements for roughly 170,000 people covered by a component of the Affordable Care Act.

State Health and Human Resources Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples said on Friday the requirement would focus on able-bodied people if enacted, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported .

About 70 percent of Medicaid expansion households include a working adult, Samples said. The requirement would apply to the other 30 percent and would “align” Medicaid with state programs that already have work requirements, he said.

“We’re really trying to empower folks to get out of the system,” Samples said, noting poverty is associated with poor health. “At the end of the day, the best thing we can do at DHHR for our able-bodied population is to get them into the workforce, without question.”

Trump administration officials have criticized the Affordable Care Act, which brought Medicaid coverage to more able-bodied people. Federal officials said in a letter to governors that states are encouraged to submit waivers from a section of the Social Security Act, under which the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services can waive certain Medicaid rules.

West Virginia anticipates it will submit a waiver application next year, Samples said. Other state programs are being studied.

The state wants to allow volunteer work, job training and education to meet the requirement, Samples said. He also said exclusions that prevent people from working, such as addiction treatment, would be allowed.

Renate Pore, a longtime health policy advocate who has been director of the Governor’s Health Care Planning Commission and the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Families, said adding work requirements would increase both administrative and uncompensated hospital care costs.

“If health care is a human right, how can you say we’re not going to give you health care if you’re not working?” Pore said.

Pore also said that people who appear to be able-bodied might actually have mental health problems that prevent them from working.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.

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