January 11, 2018

Trump allows states to require work-requirements for Medicaid, no immediate impact on NM

The Trump administration announced Thursday it would allow states to impose work requirements on “able-bodied” adults who receive Medicaid.

In New Mexico, it’s not clear if the Martinez administration will pursue such requirements, but if so, it would likely take months to go through the process.

“Medicaid needs to be more flexible so that states can best address the needs of this population,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. That center is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today’s announcement is a step in that direction.”

States would need to do so through a specific waiver with CMS.

New Mexico has been stopped from imposing such requirements in other programs. In 2016, a federal judge stopped the state from requiring people to work who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits because of a long-running federal lawsuit over the state’s inability to process aid.

NM Political Report asked a public information officer with the state Human Services Department if New Mexico will again seek to impose work requirements. She said she would attempt to get answers from HSD officials, but did not respond before press time.

Sovereign Hager, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said that the waiver New Mexico recently sent to the federal government does not include any provisions for work requirements. Before being approved by HSD, that proposal was subject to public comment.

Hager said the lack of a work requirement in New Mexico’s proposal is a good thing for residents.

“Most people on Medicaid are working and there’s no evidence that penalizing the small number on Medicaid that can’t work, taking away their healthcare, somehow improves economic activity or does anything except making things worse by taking away healthcare,” she told NM Political Report.

The Center does oppose other parts of New Mexico’s proposal she said, including limiting the eligibility of those on Medicaid and limiting retroactive eligibility.

Submitting a new waiver would require restarting the months-long process. That process includes public comment and consultation with tribes around the state.

“I think there would be a ton of opposition,” Hager said.

The state has had problems with federal aid in the past.

In November of 2016, a judge appointed a special master to oversee the state’s handling of federal aid because of the state’s continued inability to do so. The inability dated back nearly three decades to the case known as Hatten-Gonzales.

And in November 2016 the NMCLP and HSD clashed over how much information was being provided and how much progress was made to address the issues.

The work requirements would require able-bodied adults to either get a job or take part in select volunteering or caregiving activities to qualify for Medicaid.