160 groups send letter to Azar condemning Medicaid work requirements

Nearly 160 advocacy groups sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar Thursday to express their "deep concern" over CMS' decision to approve states' Medicaid work requirement waivers.

The groups, ranging from the NAACP to the American Psychological Association, argue these work requirements disproportionately hurt Medicaid enrollees with chronic health conditions, substance use disorders and mental health disorders.

"Although CMS' policy guidance states that work requirements are intended for people who are eligible for Medicaid on a basis other than disability, many individuals with chronic illness and disability would nevertheless remain subject to work requirements because they do not satisfy the rigorous federal Social Security disability requirements," the authors write.

The letter also claims the work requirements underestimate how difficult it is for formerly incarcerated Medicaid enrollees to find employment, and it argues this could end up disqualifying many people from healthcare coverage under new work requirement rules.

"CMS' policy will make it even more difficult for people with criminal records to obtain needed physical and mental health care services and medications critical to successful reentry," the authors write. "Additionally, children of parents who are struggling with these conditions, or parents who have conviction and arrest records, will be significantly and negatively affected by the disproportionately harmful effect upon their parents."

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