Colyer: Kansas Will Pursue Medicaid Work Rules Despite Court Ruling

Jul 3, 2018
Originally published on July 5, 2018 11:46 am

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says he will continue to push for a Medicaid work requirement despite a recent court order blocking a similar policy in Kentucky.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee in the District of Columbia, questioned whether the Trump administration had adequately considered the consequences of Kentucky’s work requirement before reversing longstanding federal policy to approve it.

Despite the setback, Colyer said his administration will continue discussions with federal officials about requiring some of the more than 420,000 Kansans enrolled in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to work or pursue job training.

“I remain strongly committed to incentivizing self-reliance through work,” Colyer said in an email to the Kansas News Service.

Noting that the requirement would apply to only non-disabled adults, Colyer said, “These sort of initiatives have been incredibly successful in transitioning people from public assistance to independence.”

Sheldon Weisgrau, the leader of a broad-based coalition pushing to make more people eligible for KanCare, said the court ruling “confirms that work requirements do nothing to enhance access to health care.”

“Instead, such mandates are costly and punitive, wasting millions of dollars to create bureaucratic obstacles and ultimately covering fewer people,” Weisgrau said.

A recent study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C., found that Medicaid work requirements could be counterproductive.

Forcing Medicaid recipients into low-wage jobs, the report said, would leave many ineligible for Medicaid but unable to afford private coverage. 

In the final weeks of the 2018 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers approved a budget proviso that allows the Colyer administration to continue negotiating with federal officials. But it prohibits state officials from implementing a work requirement without legislative approval.

Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks

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