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U.S. open to work requirement for Medicaid eligibility, states told

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's administration announced on Tuesday what it called "a new day for Medicaid," telling state health officials that the federal government would be more receptive to work requirements and other conservative policy ideas to reshape the main government health program for low-income people.

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the administration would approve proposals from states to require work or community engagement for people who want to receive Medicaid. President Barack Obama's administration had turned down such proposals, saying they would not further the purposes of Medicaid, which are to promote health coverage and access to care.

In a half-hour speech to the National Association of Medicaid Directors, which represents state officials, Verma said on Tuesday that Medicaid had a higher purpose: to help people "rise out of poverty and government dependence."

Many people on Medicaid, including many who became eligible as a result of the Affordable Care Act, are able-bodied adults of working age, Verma said.

"These are individuals who are physically capable of being actively engaged in their communities, whether it be through working, volunteering, going to school or obtaining job training," Verma said. "Let me be clear to everyone in this room: We will approve proposals that promote community engagement activities."

She heaped criticism on the Obama administration, saying it had focused on increasing Medicaid enrollment rather than helping people move out of poverty and into jobs.

Jason Helgerson, the Medicaid director in New York state, said on Twitter that Verma's comments were "absolutely awful." It was absurd for her to suggest that she was ushering in a new day for Medicaid by taking it away from millions of people, he said.

In her remarks Tuesday, Verma did not renew Republican calls for repealing the Affordable Care Act. But she criticized the law's expansion of Medicaid, an option that has been taken up by 31 states.

Average monthly enrollment in Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office, has climbed by nearly one-third, to 77 million people, since Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that at least six states -- Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Utah and Wisconsin -- have pending waiver requests that would require work as a condition of eligibility for some Medicaid beneficiaries. New Hampshire submitted its own proposal last week.

A Section on 11/08/2017

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