Time is running out for Ohio residents to oppose Medicaid work requirements

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Less than two weeks are left in the Ohio Medicaid Department’s public comment period on changes that would require state residents to be employed in order to receive health care.

Only days remain for Ohio residents to have their say on a plan which would require Medicare recipients who acquired health coverage through the Affordable Care Act to be employed.

Ohio residents have until March 18 to weigh in on the change before the Ohio Medicaid Department submits its application for federal approval of a work requirement to receive health care coverage.

The agency’s notice of the public comment period refers to work requirements as a “waiver.” Such terminology could easily lead the public to conclude that the plan waives an employment requirement to receive health care, rather than adding one.

In fact, approval of the proposal would mean a waiver of required Medicaid coverage through Obamacare expansion, making coverage available only to those who are employed, with few exceptions.

Rea Hederman of conservative think tank the Buckeye Institute told public radio station WKSU, “Healthy people can work, they can go to job training and this will help them over the lifetime as they acquire valuable skills to make them worth more in the labor market.”

But Wendy Patton of progressive labor group Policy Matters Ohio pointed out that a large number of people who signed up for Medicaid through Obamacare are already working, albeit in low wage jobs with scarce opportunities for health care benefits.

“Many people get less than 20 hours a week, and schedules are very variable. Someone may not make their monthly work requirement just because of a scheduling problem at their workplace and lose their health care as a result,” Patton told WKSU.

Republican Gov. John Kasich, unlike many in the GOP, is opposed to such work requirements. During his tenure, the Republican-led state Legislature has not requested them. Kasich’s final term ends in November.

State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) sides with Kasich and Patton. She told 50 States of Blue that the requirement places an undue burden on Ohio’s most vulnerable population.

Howse also stressed the need for everyone to weigh in, to use the power of their influence, in hopes of preventing the requirements from being submitted for approval.

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