Biden Admin Quietly Rolls Back Trump-Era Medicaid Work Requirements

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 18, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Br... Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 18, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 15, 2021 10:23 a.m.

The Biden administration quietly moved to roll back the controversial Trump-era policy of Medicaid work requirements.

According to the New York Times on Friday, health officials notified states with approved work requirements that the Biden administration will withdraw the approvals. Additionally, the Biden administration removed a Trump-era online guidance document encouraging states to implement new work requirement plans.

Although President Biden signed an executive order requesting a review of the Trump-era Medicaid work requirements in the first week of his presidency, Friday’s policy changes were made made without a public announcement.

Medicaid is a $600 billion federal-state program that covers about 70 million people. States had the option of expanding access to Medicaid to many low-income adults under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

During the Trump administration, Seema Verma headed up the policy priority of Medicaid work requirements — a move that Obama administration officials repeatedly rejected to states that requested waivers, stressing concerns over waivers potentially undermining access. The Medicaid agency under Verma’s leadership encouraged states to apply, and allowed states to require “able-bodied” adults drawing Medicaid benefits to work, volunteer or study.

The Trump-era Medicaid work requirements were barely adopted, however.

Arkansas was the only state to actually start the program, but was put on hold by a judge 10 months after its implementation. Other states planned to adopt the Medicaid work requirements, but hit roadblocks in courts. Nearly 20 states made efforts to implement the work requirements after the Trump administration’s invitation in 2018 to submit proposals.

The Associated Press reported that a statement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services highlighted the country’s wrecked economy and high unemployment amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a primary concern in Americans’ access to health care.

“In the midst of the greatest public health emergency in generations, now more than ever, people with Medicaid need access to care,” the CMS statement said, according to the AP. “This is not the time to experiment or test policies that risk a substantial loss of health coverage or benefits, especially for individuals and communities significantly impacted by COVID-19 and other health inequities.”

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