“There is a certain logic to Republicans’ commitment to pursuing Medicaid cuts: Social Security and Medicare are universal programs. Everyone pays in while they work, and then enjoys the benefits when they retire. Medicaid, on the other hand, is targeted to people who have low incomes. Republicans argue that this program, like food stamps and cash welfare, discourages people from seeking work, since they only qualify for benefits if their income is below a certain threshold.
“Assistance programs are supposed to be temporary, not permanent,” McCarthy said. “A hand up, not a handout. A bridge to independence, not a barrier.”
The problem is their diagnosis may be wrong. For starters, about two-thirds of the people covered by Medicaid — those who are children, elderly, or disabled — are usually exempted from work requirement proposals. Working-age adults who are expected to meet them can end up losing coverage even if they are attempting to satisfy it, if they have irregular work hours for example, or if they have trouble filing the necessary paperwork. One estimate of a Medicaid work requirement proposal in Michigan found that only about one-quarter of the people expected to lose their coverage were considered “out of work,” meaning they could work but weren’t. The rest were already working, retired, caring for a loved home at home, or unable to work for some other reason.
In Arkansas, where implementation of a work requirement was eventually blocked by a court order, nearly 17,000 people lost coverage after the requirement was put in place. Analyses later found that Medicaid beneficiaries had not started working more or earning more money as a result of the policy. Instead, lots of people got kicked off Medicaid, but it didn’t lead to an improvement in their economic status; they simply became uninsured.”