Our Opinion: Medicaid work requirements needed

We believe in lifting people out of poverty by giving people a hand up, not a handout. So it makes sense to have work requirements for able-bodied people receiving Medicaid benefits.

A bill in the Missouri Legislature would add work requirements for people who qualify for Medicaid under the new voter-approved Medicaid expansion. The bill was approved by the Missouri House and is being considered in the Senate. Because it is a constitutional amendment, it would need approval from lawmakers and state voters.

The bill also would make part of the Medicaid program subject to available funding so that future lawmakers' aren't forced to fund something our state can't afford.

The proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, wouldn't even necessarily require Medicaid recipients to work. If they didn't work, they still could qualify by being in job training or perform community service, according to a story we recently published by the Missouri Independent.

Even if approved, the work requirement would face an uphill battle because it would hinge on approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Biden administration doesn't support work requirements.

The requirements are more than generous, especially for a state/federal program that is ballooning and driving up our nation's debt. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people on Medicaid has risen to more than 82 million -- about a quarter of the U.S. population.

Here in Missouri, the state's cost for expanding Medicaid in the next fiscal year will be about $200 million, according to the Missouri Independent story. But it said the budget for all Medicaid services is expected to be $16.7 billion for the coming fiscal year.

One supporter of the work requirement is Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, who said in the story: "It is only the able-bodied adults we are requiring to have some skin in the game ... to get free, government health care."

We agree. Most of us pay for our own health coverage/insurance because we work. Government has a role in helping people, but it should generally be limited to people who also are trying to help themselves.

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