ST. GEORGE — Thousands of Utahns could be at risk of losing health care under President Donald Trump’s work mandate for Medicaid coverage. On the other hand, requiring Utahns to prove they are working to receive Medicaid coverage could be “a blessing in their lives to move forward,” said Paul Edwards, Gov. Gary Herbert’s deputy chief of staff.
Utah is one of 10 states that has filed for a waiver to apply Trump’s plan for a Medicaid work mandate. This plan would allow states to implement work requirements for Medicaid recipients.
If put in place, a work mandate for Medicaid coverage could leave over 6.3 million Americans without health care, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress. That would include thousands of Utahns who would be at risk of losing health care, said Stacy Stanford, health policy analyst for Utah Health Policy Project.
Purpose of a work mandate
A work mandate for Medicaid coverage would be beneficial for most Medicaid recipients in the long run, Edwards said.
“We really see this as an important part in the overall support package for individuals who found themselves in poverty,” Edwards said. “If they are needing these kinds of services because they are in financial straits and if they are in a position, physically and mentally, to take on the added responsibility of work, it would really be a blessing and an opportunity for them to become self-supportive.”
Politicians, like Herbert and Trump, who believe work requirements for Medicaid will help people become self-supportive and be lifted out of poverty are out of touch, Stanford said.
“A majority of people on Medicaid across the country are already working,” Stanford said. “That’s true in Utah as well. They’re either already employed or they’re disabled, they’re caregivers or they’re going to school.”
Medicaid recipients, like people who are disabled or have a condition that prevents them from working, would be exempt from a work mandate, Edwards said.
One benefit to the state in having people dropped from Medicaid coverage could be saving taxpayer dollars, but Edwards said that is not the motivation for Herbert supporting a work mandate.
“If there is a fiscal benefit, all the better,” Edwards said. “But Gov. Gary Herbert’s support of this is less about the financial aspects, but really more about helping the individuals.”
Stanford said a work mandate would not save the state any money because of all the money that would be spent enforcing it.
“It really is wasteful and is attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” Stanford said. “People aren’t sitting at home eating Cheetos and taking in all the benefits of Medicaid. For the most part, people don’t enjoy not working.”
Finding a job after work mandate
Taking Medicaid away from people who are unemployed would also not help them find a job any faster, Stanford said.
“The first thing that needs to happen to have your health care taken care of is to be able to go see the doctor and address any chronic issues or acute issues,” Stanford said. “Then you can look for employment and be able to hold a job better.”
Edwards said if a work mandate for Medicaid coverage is implemented in Utah, the state would provide resources for people to find work easier.
“This wouldn’t just be ‘go figure out how to get a job,’” Edwards said. “It would come with case management and support that would help them identify the best work opportunities for them and their circumstances.”
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