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Mo. Senate Committee Considering Work Requirements for Medicaid Recipients

Missouri Capitol Building
Missouri Statehouse in Jefferson City

Missouri could fall in line with other states hoping to implement work requirements for “able-bodied” Missourians on Medicaid.

A Senate Committee held a public forum Wednesday morning on legislation that would require some residents to engage in 20 hours of work, education, job searching or other services per week.

The proposed legislation would require the Missouri Department of Social Services to submit a waiver and make the changes necessary to implement the policy.

This year, the Trump administration opened the door to states who want to modify their Medicaid programs. The Federal Department of Health and Human Services released a letter announcing its commitment to assisting state with the changes.

Kentucky became the first state to establish such changes, with Indiana also implementing the requirements earlier this month.

The bill outlines multiple exceptions to who would not be required to work, including anyone over the age of 64, those who are pregnant and the primary caregivers of a child or adult.

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, the bill’s sponsor, said Medicaid needs to be reformed or it will overwhelm state and federal budgets.

“At the end of the day, this bill is about introducing personal responsibility into a program that has none of it,” Sater said.

Proponents for the bill said that the current welfare system traps those who qualify into dependency on the program.

“Work restores dignity, a sense of independence and brings people back to life, and we think that this is the compassionate way to proceed and to not continue to trap people in a system of dependency, especially people who are able bodied and can work,” Ryan Johnson, a lobbyist with United for Missouri, said.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, spoke against the bill, saying there are many circumstances as to why someone would be on Medicaid.

“I’m really concerned that we are putting people’s health in additional jeopardy, that that’s our goal because we think people are being irresponsible and lazy,” Schupp said.

Opponents of the bill also had concerns about how the new policy might conflicts with current requirements for Medicaid.

According to Sidney Watson, a professor at law at St Louis University who testified against the bill, a family of three is not currently qualified for Medicaid if they earn over $386 a month. A person working at minimum wage for the 20 hours a week necessary to qualify for Medicaid under the new policy would then make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

Watson also said that the implementation of this policy would lead to more regulation by the government and create a burden for Medicaid-eligible parents to prove their employment.

“My concern is people will lose eligibility, not because they’re not working, but because the paperwork gets lost,” Watson said.