FROM OUR COMMUNITY: Work requirements for Medicaid would do more harm than good

By Alicia Munson The Arc Minnesota Public Policy Director The health care that people with disabilities receive through Medicaid has […]

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By Alicia Munson
The Arc Minnesota Public Policy Director

The health care that people with disabilities receive through Medicaid has been a lifeline for over half a century. Medicaid means lifesaving prescriptions, therapies and treatments, increasing life expectancies and survival from once fatal injuries and situations.

Creating burdensome barriers to Medicaid (Medical Assistance, or MA, in Minnesota) won’t strengthen our communities, won’t save taxpayer dollars, and will put individuals with disabilities at risk of losing vital healthcare and personal services that allow them to live, work and thrive in their communities. A new report from the Journal for the American Medical Association (JAMA) adds fresh evidence to these claims, concluding that “implementing Medicaid work requirements will likely result in greater administrative expenses, eligible persons losing coverage for failure to complete paperwork, and loss of benefits that support employment.”

Last spring, Minnesota policymakers rejected legislation that would have required thousands of Minnesotans who access MA based on income to report each month whether they worked or volunteered at least 20 hours a week, or prove that they are exempt from the requirement. These types of reporting requirements would jeopardize the health care and prescription drug coverage, as well as many other critical supports, for 20,000 Minnesotans with disabilities.

For many Minnesotans with disabilities, consistent MA coverage is critical to ensuring services they need in order to work. These services make it possible for them to get ready for work, get to and from their jobs, and get the support they need on the job, while meeting any ongoing medical needs, mental health challenges, or periods of illness. Requiring people to work to qualify for MA would create a situation in which they cannot work. When people with disabilities access Medicaid through the Medicaid Expansion, they actually save the state money by not spending down their monthly income to become eligible for the disability door to Medicaid where they would need to declare themselves permanently disabled.

Furthermore, the JAMA study finds that most people receiving health care through Medicaid who can work are already doing so. Making these people file work reporting requirements is purposeless and overly burdensome, and potentially causes them to lose the MA for which they’re eligible.

Despite claims made by proponents that these requirements would reduce Medical Assistance costs, the JAMA study demonstrates that administrative costs of creating this additional layer of bureaucracy would be massive. According to state estimates, counties across Minnesota would incur more than $160 million in additional costs per year if work reporting requirements are implemented.

Medical Assistance is essential, ensuring that people with disabilities, and all Minnesotans, can get the care we need, when we need it. More than 50 nonpartisan organizations engaged in the Minnesota-based This Is Medicaid coalition agree, and have been working together to protect the promise of Medicaid. This Is Medicaid encourages the public and elected officials to value Medicaid as the crucial lifeline it is – helping Minnesotans with disabilities stay healthy, receive support at home, gain and maintain employment, and in engage in their communities. To learn more about This Is Medicaid, visit

Read the JAMA article here.

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