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Alabama seeks work requirement for some Medicaid recipients

March 2, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is seeking to put a work requirement on a small number of Medicaid recipients, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said Thursday.

The state sent a notice Tuesday to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that it is seeking to put the work, or job training, requirement on about 75,000 abled-bodied parents and caregivers who receive Medicaid because their incomes are only a few hundred dollars a month.

The proposal only impacts parents of children under 19, and caregivers, who qualify for Medicaid because their family income is at, or below 18 percent, of the federal poverty level. That is $247 a month for a family of two.

The proposed work requirement would impact up to 74,000 of the state’s 1 million Medicaid recipients, according to the proposal. Some of those 74,000 may be exempt because of age, illness and other reasons. Under the proposal, the affected recipients would have to show they have a job, or that they have engaged in a job search, job training or volunteer work, in order to keep their coverage.

“Implementing work requirements ... will save taxpayer dollars and will reserve Medicaid services for those that are truly in need of assistance,” Ivey said in a statement.

Few able-bodied adults receive Medicaid in Alabama, which runs a bare-bones program and did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Almost all Medicaid recipients in Alabama are children, disabled or elderly, said Robin Rawls, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Medicaid Agency.

An advocacy group for the poor criticized the proposal, saying it would force the “poorest of the poor” off Medicaid.

“It’s a mean-spirited, backward proposal,” said Jim Carnes, of Alabama Arise.

Carnes said the affected group consists of people who take care of a child or disabled adult on very low income. If people find work they will lose their coverage, he said.

“These are folks who are not likely to get well-paying jobs that will provide health coverage,” Carnes said.

The state proposal must first go through a public comment period before it is submitted to the state.

“The proposal from Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar is a solution in search of a problem. It is based on an absolute falsehood and vilification of those on Medicaid,” Sam Brooke, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement.

The organization filed a lawsuit over Kentucky’s effort to impose a work requirement on 350,000 Medicaid recipients.

Several states are seeking to put work requirements on Medicaid recipients after President Donald Trump’s administration signaled that it is open to approving such plans.

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