The Casper Star-Tribune recently reported on legislation sponsored by Sen. Larry Hicks that would establish work requirements for a percentage of Wyoming’s Medicaid recipients. Additional discussion is needed regarding the flawed assumptions underpinning bills of this type and regarding the potential consequences of this legislation.
Rebecca Vallas, the vice president of the Center for American Progress’ Poverty to Prosperity Program (an independent non-partisan policy institute), argues that these bills are based on three myths about poverty: that the poor are people who just don’t want to work; that anyone who wants a well-paying job can readily find one; and that having a job is all it takes to lift someone out of poverty. Anyone who has any understanding of what low-income families experience knows that these assumption are overly simplistic and condescending.
What’s more, workers who have no means to address their own or their family’s health issues are going to have a hard time being effective workers. This legislation is misguided, as increased health coverage is associated with economic prosperity. Research shows that having stability in health insurance translates to increased work capacity, higher wages and better earnings.
Additionally, the Senate bill purports to exempt adults with disabilities from its requirements, but exemption for them may not be so clear-cut, posing an undue burden on vulnerable individuals. First, the letter that announced the recent change in federal government policy that paved the way for work requirements acknowledged that there are individuals who may be classified as “non-disabled” by Medicaid classification but “may have a disability under the definitions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.”
Also, by requiring individuals with disabilities or significant health conditions to spend the time, money and effort to prove their condition to the state’s satisfaction, we are subjecting them to additional red tape and paperwork. This is not only an inefficient use of our resources, but it will also lead to vulnerable people falling through the cracks and not getting the services they need.