Critics of a proposal to impose work requirements on some Oklahoma Medicaid recipients said Tuesday that the plan is designed to reduce the state’s Medicaid rolls at the expense of health care services for some of its poorest citizens.
Medicaid recipients who find work under the plan may earn salaries that exceed Medicaid eligibility and most low wage jobs in the state don’t come with employer-provided insurance, health care advocates said during a conference call.
“This is not a proposal that can be fixed. It is a proposal that should be dropped,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
While helping poor mothers find work is a worthwhile goal, “this proposal will not achieve that goal,” Alker said. “It’s really about reducing enrollment.”
Legislation signed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin earlier this year authorized the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid provider, to seek federal government approval for some recipients to report at least 80 hours of work per month in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage.
The proposed guidelines exempt the medically frail, pregnant women, new mothers and children. Medicaid officials have estimated that about 8,000 recipients out of almost 800,000 in the state would be affected.
A similar program went into effect in Arkansas in June and the government has authorized programs in Kentucky, Indiana and New Hampshire. Last month, officials in Arkansas reported that more than 7,000 people on the state’s Medicaid expansion program didn’t meet the state’s work requirement and face the threat of losing their coverage.
Carly Putnam, policy director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said many Oklahoma Medicaid recipients who don’t work “have pretty solid reasons” for not working, such as a chronic illness or the need to care for a sick child.
“It becomes a kind of cruel, inefficient system,” Putnam said.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Fallin said assertions that the policy’s goal is “to kick people off of public assistance” are not true.
“The goal of this policy is to equip our citizens with the tools they need to be successful and lead independent lives,” Fallin said. “Oklahoma families deserve the opportunity to elevate their station in life and increase wealth and health outcomes.”