- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Trump administration approved Wisconsin’s request to impose work requirements on some Medicaid enrollees, making it the fourth state to condition benefits on seeking a job or volunteering in the community.

Wisconsin will require able-bodied, childless adults under age 50 to log 20 hours of work or community engagement per week.

“This is a thoughtful and reasonable policy, and one that is rooted in compassion,” said Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “That’s because true compassion is giving people the tools necessary to achieve self-sufficiency and to experience the dignity of a job, of contributing to their own care, and gaining a foothold on the path to independence.”

The administration’s push to let states impose work requirements is a controversial change for Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor.

A federal judge put Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements on hold in June, ruling the Trump administration cut too many corners in granting its waiver.

Indiana, Arkansas and New Hampshire have a green light to impose their requirements, however.

Arkansas went first, and it’s already kicked more than 8,000 enrollees off the rolls for failing to report compliance.

Wisconsin’s program is more patient. Enrollees will not be kicked out of coverage unless they’ve failed to comply for a total of 48 months — equivalent to four years. They’d be locked out for six months, after which they can re-enroll and restart the 48-month clock.

Critics of work requirements say enrollees will be confused by the reporting requirements or lack the computer skills needed to report compliance.

They also say work requirements flout Medicaid’s core purpose of providing health coverage.

The administration disagrees, saying local authorities should be empowered to get people up and off the government dole.

“Some believe that our sole purpose is to finance public benefits, even if that means lost opportunity and a life tethered to government dependence,” Ms. Verma said. “Instead, what’s needed are local solutions crafted by policy makers who are closer to the people they serve and the unique challenges their communities face. We will not retreat from this position.”

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