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Colorado Senate Pushes Work Requirements for Medicaid Coverage

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A job-requirement program for Medicaid recipients, similar to SB 214 in Colorado, is expected to cost Kentucky taxpayers nearly $374 million over the next two years. (Pixabay)
A job-requirement program for Medicaid recipients, similar to SB 214 in Colorado, is expected to cost Kentucky taxpayers nearly $374 million over the next two years. (Pixabay)
 By Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO - Producer, Contact
March 26, 2018

DENVER – Colorado's Senate, following the lead of the Trump administration, is considering adding work requirements for people with Medicaid coverage. Critics warn the move could end up taking health insurance away from more than six million Americans – including hundreds of thousands of Coloradans if Senate Bill 214 becomes law.

Allison Neswood, health care attorney with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, says taking health coverage away from people who are unemployed won't help anyone find or hold onto a job, and would increase poverty in the state.

"Coloradans that are living in poverty that are using Medicaid do work,” says Neswood. “Seventy-five percent of Medicaid adults already have a job, and those that don't are facing significant barriers to employment that work requirements are not going to help at all."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 7-in-10 Medicaid recipients targeted by work requirements are caregivers or in school.

Proponents of the move argue that people are healthier if they're employed or contributing to their communities as volunteers, and claim that reliance on government programs such as Medicaid can lead to dependency. SB 214 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this Thursday.

Neswood says job training, access to affordable child care and education, and jobs that pay a living wage are what's needed to help families become financially self-sufficient, not job requirements. She adds stereotypes about people living in poverty are not only false, they're counterproductive and divisive.

"And it causes us to place the blame for poverty on the backs of people who are living in difficult circumstances, who are working very hard to support their families,” she says. “And so we as a society fail to address the root causes."

Neswood notes adding work requirements also would end up costing Colorado taxpayers. A similar program in Kentucky is expected to cost $187 million just in the first six months, and in Ohio, managing additional reporting and red tape could cost local governments $380 million over the next five years.

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