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New CMS guidelines allow work requirements for Medicaid recipients

Seema Verma, who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was told by the president to deny changes that Iowa officials were proposing in their Affordable Care Act marketplace — another administration move to undermine the law, ACA supporters say. (Bloomberg photo by Pete Marovich)
Seema Verma, who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was told by the president to deny changes that Iowa officials were proposing in their Affordable Care Act marketplace — another administration move to undermine the law, ACA supporters say. (Bloomberg photo by Pete Marovich)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced new guidelines Thursday designed to help state implement work and volunteer requirements for “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients.

Under the new policy from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), states can require Medicaid recipients to work, participate in job training or volunteer.

According to a letter sent to state Medicaid directors by CMS Administrator Seema Verma, this move is designed “to promote better mental, physical and emotional health” and “to help individuals and families rise out of poverty and attain independence.”

The policy would exclude individuals who are elderly or disabled, pregnant women and children.

Nationwide, Medicaid covers 75 million low-income children, adults, elderly and disabled individuals — or about 1 in 5 Americans.

There are 600,000 Medicaid recipients in Iowa, about 40 percent of whom are aged between 22 to 64, according to the latest quarterly report from the Department of Human Services.

Department of Human Services Spokesman Matt Highland said the department “in consultation with the administration, will take a look at the new guidance.”

“Right now the Department (of Human Services) is focused on the recent transition, the recruitment of an additional (managed-care organizations) and overall operational improvements,” Highland said in an email.

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In a statement to The Gazette, Brenna Smith, spokeswoman for Gov. Kim Reynold’s Office, said the governor is reviewing and considering the guidelines.

“The governor believes that Medicaid is an important safety net for many Iowans, and her hope is that those on the program who are able-bodied are able to find a career and re-enter the workforce,” Smith said in an email. “That’s why the governor is introducing the Future Ready Iowa Act, which will provide scholarship and grant dollars for Iowans who want to receive training in high demand fields.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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