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Feds to allow Wis., other states test work requirements for Medicaid coverage

Wisconsin is now free to enact work requirements for some Medicaid enrollees, according to an announcement sent to state Medicaid directors from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In the 10-page memo, CMS says it will support state efforts to test incentives that make work participation or other community engagement a requirement for continued Medicaid eligibility. In a separate release, CMS says this new policy is responding to "numerous state requests" to test programs through Medicaid demonstration projects.

These projects would set conditions for Medicaid eligibility that could include work or participation in community engagement activities like skills training, education, job search, volunteering or caregiving. This would exclude those eligible for Medicaid due to a disability, the elderly, children and pregnant women.

CMS says it has received demonstration project proposals which include employment and community engagement initiatives from 10 states, including Wisconsin.

"Medicaid needs to be more flexible so that states can best address the needs of this population," says Seema Verma, CMS administrator. "Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today's announcement is a step in that direction."

But Kevin Kane, a spokesman for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, says this move is "the latest in a long line of sabotage" of the country's health care system, and will make it harder for some in the state to get affordable health coverage.

"We can point to tons of different times the Trump administration and the Walker administration are making it harder for some people who have some sort of health coverage," Kane told WisBusiness.com. He pointed to the elimination of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate and Walker's efforts to enact drug testing requirements for Medicaid as examples.

"All these things are trying to dismantle, bit by bit, the health care system," he said. "They're making it harder for people on the program to stay on."

DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt says "we appreciate CMS and the Trump administration responding to requests by states for more flexibility as we strive to meet the unique needs of our citizens, and look forward to more steps in this direction."

Goodsitt says DHS is reviewing the CMS memo and evaluating potential impact to the state's current waiver request, which the state submitted in June.

See the memo: http://www.medicaid.gov/federal-policy-guidance/downloads/smd18002.pdf

See the CMS release: http://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2018-Press-releases-items/2018-01-11.html

--By Alex Moe


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