The Mills administration has rejected new work requirements for Medicaid recipients that were requested by former Gov. Paul LePage and approved by the Trump administration just days before LePage left office.
The work requirements were criticized by progressive advocacy groups, while LePage maintained that the requirements would provide beneficiaries with an incentive to find employment.
Medicaid is a federal program operated by the states funded with a blend of federal and state dollars. About 260,000 people in Maine have Medicaid.
Gov. Janet Mills “sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services informing the agency that Maine would not accept the terms of the pending 1115 Medicaid waiver. Instead, Governor Mills has directed Acting Commissioner of Labor Laura Fortman and Acting Commissioner of Health and Human Services Jeanne Lambrew to make available vocational training and workforce supports to MaineCare participants at every opportunity while increasing access to needed services that keep people in the workforce,” the Mills administration said in a news release.
“Maine’s low unemployment rate, its widely dispersed population, and our lowest per capita income in New England make mandates – without appropriate supports like vocational training and specific exemptions for groups like people undergoing treatment – problematic,” Mills said in a statement. “We believe that the likely result of this 1115 demonstration would leave more Maine people uninsured without improving their participation in the workforce.”
The work requirements were approved on Dec. 21, and would have required some non-disabled, non-elderly Medicaid recipients to work, volunteer or attend school 80 hours per month or risk losing Medicaid benefits. Also, some would be required to pay premiums of up to $40 per month to receive Medicaid.
LePage touted the news, but Mills had wide latitude to accept or reject the work requirements, which would have been a voluntary addition to Maine’s Medicaid program. The Trump administration also has approved Medicaid work requirements for Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Mills said that instead of work requirements, her administration will expand job training programs for Medicaid recipients.
“Ensuring that Maine people have access to health care and are healthy is the first step to getting them back into the workforce,” Lambrew, the DHHS nominee, said in a statement. “Waiving protections against high premiums and for retroactive coverage would only reduce access to that critical coverage, including preventive services, mental health care, and treatment for substance use disorders.”
Fortman said that “Maine is in the midst of a serious workforce shortage, which is why it is crucial that we continue to make sure that every Maine person has the support and resources they need to find and keep work.”
The Mills administration will expand or implement various programs for those receiving public assistance, to help them find work or attend school, that currently exist in the food stamp and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.
“Mounting evidence demonstrates that work requirements only impose burdensome mandates on people without increasing workforce participation,” the news release said.
In Arkansas, more than 18,000 people have lost Medicaid coverage since September when work requirements were implemented, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.