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LASC Opposes the Medicaid Work Requirement

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COLUMBUS, March 16, 2018 – Today, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) filed comments in response to the Kasich Administration’s Medicaid waiver application. LASC strongly opposes the Ohio Department of Medicaid’s (ODM) proposed work requirement for individuals on Medicaid, as a violation of the Medicaid Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Legal Aid fears thousands of Ohioans could lose life-saving medical coverage if the waiver is approved. Any individual who is part of the Medicaid expansion and not exempt or working 80 hours a month would lose their healthcare under the proposed waiver.

Kwame McCants is a part-time student who works on campus to help him get through school. He will graduate this year and is subject to the waiver requirement.

“I’m not lazy, I work and I go to school. The only reason I went on Medicaid was because I was wrongfully terminated from a job I worked hard at. I went back to school because I wanted to improve myself. By helping me stay healthy and deal with my medical condition, Medicaid has helped me be successful at school. Without it I think I would be so sick I wouldn’t be able to work. I would probably be homeless.”  – Kwame McCants

Over 700,000 Ohioans will be affected by the new work and reporting requirements proposed by the waiver. The Ohio Department of Medicaid claims that 95% of these people may be exempt from the requirement or already work. However, many more Ohioans will face reduced access to healthcare for no other reason than they could not navigate the new administrative hoops. Other Ohioans will lose healthcare due to inconsistent work hours that leave them short of the requirement. Under this waiver fewer Ohioans will have the healthcare coverage they need to keep working. Healthcare helps people work, not the other way round.

In comments to ODM, LASC argued:

“Ohio’s waiver violates federal law because its work requirement is outside the statutory authority of º1115, is against the purpose and objectives of the Medicaid Act, and violates the state’s maintenance of efforts obligations. Further, the proposal of mandatory work requirements as an eligibility requirement for Medicaid violates the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a result, we ask that ODM not take further steps toward waiver approval.”

As stated in its comments, LASC argues that the waiver violates the law in several ways. The proposed work requirement falls outside the scope of the Health and Human Services Secretary’s legal authority and will create nothing but increased hardship for many Ohioans. The waiver, as proposed, will also violate minimum wage laws by failing to fairly compensate people who are sent to work at unpaid work experience programs. In some cases, people will earn only a few dollars per hour in benefits.

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