The Trump administration, to no one’s surprise, has approved Wisconsin’s plan to require 80 hours of work to get coverage under the Medicaid expansion enabled by Obamacare. As in Arkansas, it’s being pitched as a plan to improve health and help people out of poverty.
The spin by Medicaid administrator Seema Verma is a demonstrable lie. In Arkansas, the rule has knocked more than 8,000 off health coverage and counting. No accounting here — or in any of the many studies done on putting such requirements on welfare programs — have shown an improvement in economic status by such rules. Indeed, punitive requirements tend to drive families deeper into poverty.
Wisconsin also now becomes the fourth state with current approval to operate a community engagement program to help incentivize working-age adult beneficiaries to participate in activities like job training and employment—joining Indiana, Arkansas, and New Hampshire. I recognize that there are people who disagree with this approach. Some believe that our sole purpose is to finance public benefits, even if that means lost opportunity and a life tethered to government dependence. 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. In Wisconsin, where the unemployment rate has rested just at or below 3% through this entire year, state leaders recognize that employers are struggling to find talent. In one example, an auto parts manufacturer in Sheboygan has even dropped their high school diploma requirement and has begun hiring individuals without manufacturing experience. What this means is that there are real, life-changing opportunities available to help lift individuals out of the shadows of opportunity and into its light. States rightly want to explore innovative ways to achieve that objective.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in a tough re-election battle, has been accused of slow-walking the application for a work rule because of fear it might harm him politically. Let us hope. Gov. Asa Hutchinson believes — and results support him — that he leads a state where the majority of voters view welfare recipients as unworthy and should be made to trade a pound of flesh for alms. It’s in their Bibles somewhere. At least 5,000 are expected to lose coverage in Wisconsin.
I can’t find yet if Wisconsin is doubling down on meanness by requiring people to report on their work by computer. It also has a rule that will lock out recipients if they fail to pay newly required premiums. The Trump administration DID refuse to go along with mandatory drug testing of recipients. Also from New York Times:
Beneficiaries can be charged higher premiums if they drink, smoke, don’t wear their seatbelt, or “fail to engage in dietary, exercise, and other lifestyle…behaviors in an attempt to maintain a healthy body weight.”
How’d we miss that?
UPDATE: Here’s a taste of what Seema Verma thinks is funny. Making fun of the idea of providing health coverage for all.
This year’s scariest Halloween costume goes to… pic.twitter.com/QtRbdmiR8T
— Administrator Seema Verma (@SeemaCMS) October 31, 2018