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Court losses aren’t stopping push to make Missourians get jobs to get Medicaid

Court losses aren’t stopping push to make Missourians get jobs to get Medicaid

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Julia Rosamond discusses a new Medicaid rule in Lepanto Arkansas

Julie Rosamond discusses a new rule to require "able-bodied" Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer for a minimum number of hours each month, or be locked out of health benefits in Lepanto, Ark., on May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Karen Pulfer Focht

JEFFERSON CITY — Despite another negative court ruling, the sponsor of a plan to require Medicaid recipients in Missouri to get jobs said he will continue pressing forward with his proposal.

For the third time in three years, Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, is sponsoring a plan requiring people who receive health care benefits under the Medicaid program to work, attend school or volunteer in order to maintain the coverage.

Unlike prior attempts, the latest version would send the question to voters in the November election.

The proposed referendum has already won approval in a Senate committee and awaits debate by the full chamber.

It comes amid ongoing legal setbacks for President Donald Trump as his administration attempts to let states impose work requirements on those receiving benefits.

On Friday, a federal appeals court rejected an appeal of a case involving Medicaid benefits in Arkansas.

The ruling said the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s stated objectives in approving Arkansas’ plan — making people healthier and more independent — were not consistent with the statutory goal of Medicaid.

“The text of the statute includes one primary purpose, which is providing health-care coverage without any restriction geared to healthy outcomes, financial independence or transition to commercial coverage,” the unanimous ruling noted.

Sater said Monday he is going “full speed ahead” with his proposal.

“The court decision is not going to deter me,” Sater said. “My philosophy is that work is good for people.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said Missouri Democrats oppose adding work requirements. She said meeting the state’s tight deadlines for returning existing paperwork already is “an extreme burden.”

“You’re adding additional paperwork: having to go in, make copies of things, have transportation to get to the centers to make copies and mail things in additional costs,” she said. “Every place that we’ve seen work requirements across the country, they have not done what the Republicans are hoping they do.”

Some states have abandoned work requirements, which require low-income adults to work or seek work for 80 hours per month.

Kentucky, for example, dropped its work requirement on Dec. 16 after voters elected a Democratic governor and booted out Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Maine stopped its program in January.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration is seeking to delay a work requirement approved under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The program was originally scheduled to begin Nov. 1. The Wisconsin State Journal reported on Wednesday that Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm asked for a delay until April 29.

A Senate analysis of Sater’s proposal shows that an estimated 3,511 recipients would be affected by the change if it went into effect in Missouri.

Of those, the analysis noted that an estimated 65% would likely fail to comply and would lose their coverage.

Among the groups opposing the proposed referendum are Missouri Catholic Conference, Empower Missouri and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

It isn’t the only time Sater has pushed a change in law designed to make people work if they want welfare benefits.

A 2015 law he sponsored added eligibility requirements to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. About 23,000 children ended up being dropped from the rolls of that program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over two years.

The law required low-income parents to get job training, volunteer or receive high school and vocational education, and also cut the time families could spend on the program.

The legislation is Senate Joint Resolution 32.

Tynan Stewart of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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