Indiana creates Medicaid work rules for low-income Hoosiers

Indiana has become the latest state to implement work requirements for low-income residents who receive their health insurance through Medicaid— a change that opponents warn will cost some under-resourced Hoosiers their health coverage.

The state’s Gateway to Work program began July 1. The new program requires an estimated 72,000 people to report their work hours or other activity to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration in order to keep their coverage, WFYI-FM reported.

The requirements start at 20 hours a month but will jump to 80 hours a month by July 2020. Adam Mueller with Indiana Legal Services, which helps low-income Hoosiers, and other protesters contend the changes will result in people losing their health coverage under the program. They highlight the issue in Arkansas, where more than 18,000 people lost coverage after the state implemented a related program.

“The notices that we have seen appear to be very complicated with a lot of language and definitions and terminology that aren’t exactly clear,” Mueller says. “To the extent that there are efforts to get the word out, it’s not clear to me that those have been effective.”

Sarah Somers, attorney for the National Health Law Program, said many states have been pushing for Medicaid work requirements.

“The sort of guiding philosophy behind this was that these are able-bodied people who should be able to work and they shouldn’t get health insurance for nothing,” Somers says.

The National Health Law Program has sued to halt some of these alterations in other states. In March, a federal judge struck down work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky.

Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, said the state doesn’t want reporting rules to make any residents lose their health coverage.

Since February, the agency has sent out letters, postcards and emails to its members to inform them of changes.

She added the program intends to connect people with job training, education or comparable programs. The monthly reports won’t require signatures, paperwork or pay stubs. The state will trust that participants are truthful.

“We’re not trying to make this a full-time job, we’re actually trying to help people get real full-time jobs,” Walthall said. “So we don’t want to get in their way.”

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