News & Politics

Republicans Share Deeply Twisted Logic to Justify Their Medicaid Work Requirements

This isn’t about community engagement. It’s about making life harder for poor people

Photo Credit: Forbes (via YouTube)

A growing number of Republican-controlled states—with the cooperation of the Trump administration—are passing racist work requirements for Medicaid, exempting majority-white rural areas because of their high unemployment rates, but not doing the same for cities with high unemployment and large numbers of people of color. But beyond the contradiction of exempting some people but not others because there aren’t jobs where they live, there’s another major hole in the Republican case for this policy, as TPM’s Alice Ollstein reports:

“Community engagement isn’t necessarily just about work,” Trump’s Medicaid chief, CMS Administrator Seema Verma, told a packed room at the Washington Post on Tuesday morning. “It could be volunteer work, it could be job search activities, it could be job training — anything to help that individual seek independence and a pathway out of poverty.”

This contradiction has experts like George Washington University health law professor Sara Rosenbaum scratching their heads.

“If it’s truly about ‘community engagement’ and not a work requirement, why exempt anyone?” she asked TPM. “If what you care about is getting people to participate in their communities, it doesn’t matter what the unemployment rate is. You can ‘engage’ in any community.”

Which brings us back to where we started: this isn’t about community engagement or logic. It’s about making life harder for poor people—but offering poor white people a big loophole.

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Laura Clawson is the Labor editor at Daily Kos Labor, and a contributing editor at Daily Kos.