Virginia could become the next state to add work requirements for Medicaid. The conservative reforms are being proposed by lawmakers in Virginia’s House. It’s part of a strategy to convince the state Senate to support Medicaid expansion.
Medicaid expansion would allow a poor able-bodied adult to get access to free health insurance. Work requirements attach strings to that benefit. Someone must work, be looking for work, or be in school for a certain number of hours a week. Those hourly requirements are bumped up the longer someone is enrolled.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee voted Friday to add an explicit punishment. If someone fails to meet the requirements for any three months out of the year, they’ll be kicked off the rolls and not allowed to re-apply until the following year.
“We’re just making it a little bit clearer here, just a little bit clearer, that somebody’s gonna be looking out after it and making sure that people try to get this kind of help," says Democratic Delegate Mark Sickles.
There are possible exceptions, if someone can demonstrate they didn't meet the requirements because of a "catastrophic event." The House budget also allots money for programs to help support Medicaid enrollees in finding work and education.
"I don't see that as anything more than just a refinement of the program," says Republican Delegate Chris Jones. "The design of the program is to help."
Other welfare programs have had work requirements since the mid 90’s, but previous administrations haven’t allowed them for Medicaid. Since the Trump administration announced it would, several states have requested approval.
If the work requirements make it into the final state budget, Virginia would join the queue.