CMS Is Taking a Closer Look at Work Requirement Waivers

The Mississippi Division of Medicaid asked the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for permission to impose a work requirement on two mandatory categories of Medicaid beneficiaries: parents and caretaker relatives who have incomes below 27 percent of the poverty line, and parents and caretaker relatives who qualify for Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA), because their income rose above 27 percent of the poverty line due to employment or increased earnings. This will essentially take Medicaid coverage away from low-income parents unless they work 20 hours a week.

Hold up Mississippi–not so fast! Recently, CMS directed states that want to implement work requirements to come up with a plan for people at risk of losing coverage. While CMS approved work requirement waivers in Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana, it appears that non-Medicaid expansion states are being looked at through a different level of scrutiny. CMS deserves applause for taking a closer look at states that didn’t expand Medicaid to determine how a work requirement would adversely affect Mississippians.

Mississippi’s request to apply a work requirement to the most vulnerable Medicaid beneficiaries is counterproductive, costly and will likely result in thousands of very poor parents becoming uninsured. The state needs to figure this out completely before risking the health and well-being of its most needy and vulnerable citizens.

Linda Dixon Rigsby is the Health Law Director for the Mississippi Center for Justice.