Classified ads Three states–NewHampshire, Arkansas and Kentucky–have active lawsuits challengingwork requirements for Medicaid. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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As more states gear up to impose work requirements (15 states thus farhave applied, with waivers approved and implemented in Arkansas,Indiana and New Hampshire; approved but not implemented in Arizona,Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio; and pending in Alabama, Mississippi,Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah) and resistance growsagainst them, new data suggests the requirements aren't veryeffective.

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In fact, despite assertions to the contrary by Health and HumanServices Secretary Alex Azar, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reportsthat not only have individuals kicked off Medicaid because ofunsatisfied work requirements not gotten health care coveragethrough a new employer, they haven't been able to find jobseither.

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Related: Medicaid work requirements bring confusion,lawsuits

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According to the data, only about 2,000 of the 18,000 or soArkansans who lost their health care last year reenrolled inMedicaid this year, and very few of those 18,000 (1,981) foundjobs. That leaves some 16,000 others dealing with beinguninsured.

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However, when asked about the fate of those who lost coverage,Azar said in a House hearing last week, “we do not yet have data asto why they fell off the program.” Two days later, at the SenateFinance Committee, Azar instead pointed to the low share of people who lost coverage last yearand reenrolled in January and said, “That seems a fairly strongindication that the individuals who left the program were doing sobecause they got a job.”

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And the state data are probably overstating the number of peoplewho found work, since the New Hire Database includes people whohave worked for just hours or days; it doesn't capture wage or hourinformation, so doesn't indicate whether the new jobs are temporaryor even seasonal; and also doesn't indicate whether the individualsare working at new jobs and simply changed employers.

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Meanwhile, the Trump administration is being sued over work requirements—now by threestates, as New Hampshire joins Arkansas and Kentucky in havingactive lawsuits filed against the work requirements. The judge whoalready ruled against a Medicaid work requirement imposed inKentucky last June has promised to rule on such requirements forboth Kentucky and Arkansas by the end of this month. His decisioncould have broad repercussions for other states considering addingtheir own work requirements.

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U.S. District Judge James Boasberg is considering not only arevised federal approval for Kentucky, but also Arkansas'requirements. Kaiser Health News reports that Boasberg hassaid that Azar's approval of Kentucky's plan “failed to considerwhether the strategy would 'help the state furnish medicalassistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid,'”adding that Boasberg “said promoting health generally or helpingsomeone get a job was not the point of the state-federal programcreated in 1965.”

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The National Health Law Program is representing the NewHampshire residents, and arguing that “the administration wants toweaken the Medicaid program through work requirements.”

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“This approval will not promote coverage, but it will result insignificant coverage losses, and that is the administration'sgoal—to weaken the Medicaid program and cull people whom it deemsunworthy from it,” NHeLP legal director Jane Perkins said in astatement.

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While Azar has said in a speech that “We know there is a strongconnection between finding work and improving physical and mentalhealth, and we want to pursue these goals in all our health andhuman services programs,” CBPP points out that the loss of healthcoverage makes it less likely, not more, that people will be ableto work—and certainly to work sufficient hours to satisfy workrequirements to maintain health coverage.

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