Ohio Medicaid expansion recipients to see work requirements

Ohioans who are covered by the expansion of Medicaid will soon have to get a job, go to school or get an exemption.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave Ohio approval today to impose work requirements for those covered by Medicaid expansion.

The health insurance program for low income Ohioans — jointly funded by the state and federal government. As of February, there were 539,641 people covered by Medicaid expansion listed as enrolled in Ohio Medicaid managed care plans.

“I am pleased that Ohio is a model state that balances a pathway to employment and access to health care in our reasonable work requirements. They are intended to put those able-bodied adults served by the Medicaid expansion on a pathway to full employment,” Governor Mike DeWine said in a statement.

Work requirements have been hailed by some conservative lawmakers as a way to encourage self sufficiency. Critics of the move have said work requirements are an unnecessary burdens on the poor, will make health outcomes worse, and waste money on red tape.

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“According to the State of Ohio’s own extensive, independently conducted research, Ohio’s Medicaid program enabled hundreds of thousands of Ohioans to get and stay healthy. Healthy Ohioans can keep their jobs and take care of their families without fear of choosing between their health and other necessities like food or rent,” John Corlett, former Ohio Medicaid director and executive director of the Center for Community Solutions.

He said in a statement that the state will need to monitor how this change impacts the economic viability of safety net hospitals, community health centers and community mental health centers that serve a large percentage of Medicaid patients.

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Ohio requested federal permission to create work requirements after the Republican-majority Ohio General Assembly put the language into the budget under former Gov. John Kasich, directing Ohio Department of Medicaid to seek permission to add the job requirements for those covered through Medicaid expansion.

The state estimated that about 95 percent of those covered by the expansion would already either meet the work requirement or be exempt. Some of the exemptions include being age 50 years or older, participating in drug or alcohol treatment, being pregnant, or complying with work requirements associated with other programs like SNAP, also known as food stamps.

Center for Community Solutions has questioned the math of how many people will lose coverage, pointing to when the state implemented work requirements for SNAP benefits. While the state estimated 134,000 recipients would be affected, nearly 400,000 Ohioans no longer receive SNAP benefits.