Comment period ending for TennCare work requirement waiver

Feb 4, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC (OSBORNE)  --  The federal government will this week close the public comments period on Tennessee’s request to require some Medicaid recipients to work for their benefits.

Credit tn.gov

The State of Tennessee asked the Trump Administration to approve the change back in December. The request will likely be granted. President Trump last year urged states to add work requirements to Medicaid.

In Tennessee's request, TennCare Director Wendy Long wrote that the state wants to add “workforce participation and community engagement as an expectation for certain members enrolled in the TennCare.” She went on to say “A growing body of research indicates a connection between health outcomes and a variety of social factors, including employment.”

But not everyone is convinced the change will prove helpful. A report published last month by Georgetown University researchers suggests adding work requirements may cause as many as 68,000 Tennesseans to lose healthcare. Here’s the university’s Joan Alker.

“We know this from research on other programs that have implemented work requirements and the experience of Tennessee’s neighbor Arkansas. The practical effects of Tennessee's proposal will be to take away Medicaid coverage from very poor parents – again, mostly mothers."

United Ways of Tennessee president Mary Graham also opposes the work requirement. She fears it could lead to additional closures among Tennessee's small, rural hospitals.

"We support work as a core value – but taking away people's health care coverage? That's not a way to get more people working. This is going to be devastating to communities across Tennessee, and this waiver is going to make it even harder for rural hospitals to keep their doors open."

Supporters of the TennCare work requirement note that there are generous exemptions to the proposed regulations. Seniors, the disabled, pregnant women, and the parents of small children would not be required to seek employment.