Friday, January 18, 2019

NEW: Arizona Gets Federal Go-Ahead To Impose Work (etc.) Requirements To Receive AHCCCS Benefits, Starting In 2020

AHCCCS (aka Arizona's Medicaid program) today received approval from the federal government to begin adding work requirements in 2020 to able-bodied individuals who receive the health insurance benefits. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS"). In 2016, under the previous Administration, CMS had rejected a similar Arizona request. "However, given the potential benefits of work and other forms of community engagement, we now believe that state Medicaid programs should be able to design and test incentives for beneficiary compliance with community engagement requirements."

Governor Doug Ducey celebrated the approval: "This approval from CMS will allow Arizona to implement a community engagement requirement for able-bodied adults on AHCCCS, much like the work requirements that already exist in other state benefit programs. Employment and community engagement are proven to have a positive effect on overall health and well-being. By aligning educational and employment incentives, and providing robust job search support services and educational opportunities, Arizona can create pathways toward better health outcomes and employment opportunities for our citizens.”

Arizona Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-CD1) was quick to blast the approval, stating: “This decision by CMS will leave thousands of Arizonans facing unnecessary red tape to access affordable health care they are entitled to by law. It will cost Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars to implement, and will result in more uncompensated care in our hospitals. As we are seeing in Arkansas, which implemented similar requirements, hardworking families including veterans will lose their benefits and costs will skyrocket. This is a devastating decision for rural communities, and as a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I will fight it."

CMS did reject Arizona's proposal that able-bodied individuals between the ages of 19-49 also have a five-year lifetime cap on AHCCCS benefits if they fail to comply with "AHCCCS Works". Instead, CMS and AHCCCS agreed to a two-month suspension for failure to comply. Compliance entails 80 hours/month of work, "job training, education, or volunteer service experience."

Arizona had requested that Native Americans be exempted from the AHCCCS Works requirements. That raised issues, and CMS eventually approved narrower language stating that members of a federally-recognized tribe are exempted. (The issues appeared to be related to whether it was a racial exemption or an exemption for persons who are part of another sovereign nation.)

(Updated at 3:32pm with quote from O'Halleran.)

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