GOP Bid For Medicaid Work Requirements Unlikely To Withstand Veto

Oct 6, 2017

HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- In the midst of this week's budget negotiation meltdown, House Republicans have managed to slide a piece of priority legislation through their chamber and on to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf's desk. 

Credit AviatorDave / flickr

It's a senate-approved human services bill that would ultimately create a work requirement for able-bodied people to get Medicaid benefits.

Wolf said he'll veto it--though the issue is likely to come up again.  

Human services--and Medicaid in particular--are among Pennsylvania's biggest financial burdens. Figuring out how to reduce those costs has been a priority for state Republicans.

Changes have to be made in concert with the federal government.

The bill that passed the legislature would require Governor Wolf to design a program that cuts some Medicaid costs and creates "reasonable" job search or employment requirements, and then get it approved by the Trump administration.

House GOP spokesman Steven Miskin noted, disabled, pregnant, and elderly people would be exempt.

"Able-bodied people should be trying to get jobs," Miskin said. "The goal should always be self-sufficiency. The goal should not be to grow government programs just because."

He said there aren't enough Republican votes to override Wolf's veto, though.

The concept has been firmly opposed by left-leaning groups. Kristen Dama, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, said it would create red tape for the wrong reasons.  

"We think that's a really costly and really ineffective way to administer a program, when the goal of the program is to keep people healthy," she said.

A handful of other states have begun working on versions of Medicaid work-requirement programs, but none are in place yet.

Dama said Wolf's imminent veto probably won't end the quest to cut Medicaid costs.

"I think that there are a lot of people who mean really well who think that this is just common-sense government administration--that we should do everything we can to help people work," she said.

While she said CLS maintains work requirements are the wrong response, she noted that "this conversation is probably ongoing."

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