Pa. grapples with potential Medicaid work requirements

Shelagh Collins walks from her car to a job search appointment on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, in Forest Hills, Pa., an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh. Collins gets by on occasional secretarial temp work and unemployment compensation checks, but she can't afford specialized treatment for her various health conditions that limit her ability to do certain jobs. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

Shelagh Collins walks from her car to a job search appointment on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, in Forest Hills, Pa., an eastern suburb of Pittsburgh. Collins gets by on occasional secretarial temp work and unemployment compensation checks, but she can't afford specialized treatment for her various health conditions that limit her ability to do certain jobs. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

As more states begin creating work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients, calls to do the same in Pennsylvania are building.

After announcing in January that it would let states impose Medicaid work requirements, the Trump administration has already approved the measures in Kentucky, Indiana, and — just this week — Arkansas. Eight other states are currently looking to do something similar.

Pennsylvania isn’t one of them, but it’s not for Republicans’ lack of effort. Both GOP-controlled chambers passed a bill last year to require able bodied Medicaid recipients prove they’re looking for work.

In a Human Services Department budget hearing, GOP Representative Brad Roae reiterated who would be targeted.

“Non-elderly, able-bodied adults without disabilities who are not working, who are not caregivers for other people, who are not in school,” he listed.

Acting Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said implementing the requirements would be too expensive — estimating the project could run up to $600 million in the first year. Plus, she added, she thinks the requirements contradict the point of Medicaid.

People who need the service, Miller said, “are, in many cases, facing significant barriers to employment — facing addiction issues or physical or mental health issues, lack of education issues, criminal history, lack of affordable, reliable childcare.”

“We shouldn’t be penalizing people,” she continued. “We should be looking for opportunities and ways to address their barriers. We shouldn’t be taking away people’s access to healthcare.”

Miller doesn’t know how much the work requirements would save, or whether they would ultimately pay for their own implementation costs. She said the agency is studying a number of proposals.

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