For Seema Verma, Christmas came just a bit early this year. No, her parents didn’t come for a surprise visit or she didn’t score a copy of “Super Mario Bros. Smash” for the Switch. (Maybe these things happened, but I can’t say with any certainty.)
Instead, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was able to deliver on a promise she’s been working on for a long time.
According to the Washington Examiner, the Trump administration has approved pilot plans in several states that would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work.
“The CMS sleigh has made deliveries to Kansas, Rhode Island, Michigan, & Maine this week to drop off signed #Medicaid waivers,” Verma tweeted Saturday.
“Christmas came early for these Governors & we are proud to support local innovation all across this great country!!”
The CMS sleigh has made deliveries to Kansas, Rhode Island, Michigan, & Maine this week to drop off signed #Medicaid waivers. Christmas came early for these Governors & we are proud to support local innovation all across this great country!
— Administrator Seema Verma (@SeemaCMS) December 21, 2018
The requests were approved just a few weeks before each of the states were to see Democratic governors sworn in. The waivers were requested under Republican governors; you can probably take a fairly accurate guess regarding what their successors think of the idea.
“Under the plan, poor people will need to work, volunteer, or take classes at least 80 hours a month to continue receiving Medicaid coverage, which is paid for by the government,” the Examiner reported. “People undergoing treatment for addiction and for caregivers, among other groups, are exempt from the requirements.
“Maine and Michigan join five other states with similar plans, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. Several other states have applied to join that list, including Virginia.”
Such initiatives have long been on the agenda of Verma and the Trump administration.
“Believing that community engagement requirements do not support or promote the objectives of Medicaid is a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration,” Verma said in November 2017 remarks before the National Association of Medicaid Directors.
Instead, Verma said, she wanted recipients to “move up, move on, and move out” of the program.
“Let me be clear to everyone in this room — we will approve proposals that promote community engagement activities,” she said.
“Every American deserves the dignity and respect of high expectations, and as public officials we should deliver programs that instill hope and say to each beneficiary that we believe in your potential.”
At the time, the proposal garnered significant criticism.
“Not only will work requirements impede access to health care coverage for individuals who aren’t able to work, but they will also create difficult administrative hurdles for the vast majority of individuals on Medicaid who are already working,” Catherine McKee, a senior attorney with the National Health Law Program, told The Hill.
She also noted that rules at the time only allowed waivers if they increased the number of poor people on the program.
But that shouldn’t be the goal. Medicaid oughtn’t be a permanent solution. The point is to able-bodied people to “move up, move on, and move out.” If work requirements help hasten that move, it’s time for more states to start requesting waivers.
One can only hope that next Christmas, we’ll have a lot more presents like this to celebrate.
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