Trump administration still backs Medicaid work requirements after Kentucky setback

Despite hitting a bump in the road with Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky, the Trump administration will continue to approve applications from other states. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, in a speech to the Heritage Foundation on Thursday, July 26, reiterated a commitment to establishing such requirements for able-bodied people who receive Medicaid.

"We are fully committed to work requirements and community participation requirements in the Medicaid program," Azar. "We will continue to litigate, we will continue to approve plans, we are continuing to work with states, and we’ll drive forward."

In a follow-up interview with Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation, Azar emphasized his office’s argument that work requirements were “sensible”—and not some unreasonable burden for at-risk populations.

"If you can't get a job—people don't talk about this—the programs we approved, you can volunteer. Just 20 hours of volunteer work. It doesn't have to be getting a job. It can be getting education as part of it. It can be child care—it can be taking care of a child,” he said.

Azar’s remarks were made just a week after CMS opened a 30-day federal comment period on the Kentucky plan, giving the Trump administration the opportunity to show how work requirement policies would impact the Medicaid population.

Currently, just three states—Arkansas, New Hampshire and Indiana—have enacted work requirement policies for their Medicaid programs after CMS announced it would accept waivers for such programs. However, the first round of reporting by beneficiaries did not go smoothly in Arkansas, after more than 7,000 people failed to report they worked at least 80 hours in June.