Politics & Government

SC Gov. McMaster wants to require some Medicaid recipients to work

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster directed the state Department of Health and Human Services Thursday to immediately seek federal waivers to establish work requirements for South Carolinians who receive Medicaid.
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster directed the state Department of Health and Human Services Thursday to immediately seek federal waivers to establish work requirements for South Carolinians who receive Medicaid.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster wants work requirements for some recipients of Medicaid, a federal health insurance program for children, seniors, people with disabilities and the poor.

The changes would impact the state’s “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients, McMaster said in a news release Thursday, directing the state’s Health and Human Services agency to seek a federal waiver that would allow the state to impose the work requirements.

About 1.1 million South Carolinians are on Medicaid, according to Health and Human Services. Roughly 70 percent are children, senior citizens or disabled, while 30 percent are “other adults,” which could fall into the able-bodied category.

Neither McMaster’s office or the state’s Medicaid agency could say Thursday how many S.C. Medicaid recipients would be impacted by the work requirement or how many are unemployed.

McMaster’s announcement came on the heels of the Trump administration saying it will make it easier for states to impose work requirements for Medicaid.

Ten states have requested waivers that would allow them to test work requirements or other types of community engagement.

Those states are Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin, Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Thursday.

McMaster did not propose any specific work requirements or say how Medicaid recipients would be tested under a work program. Health and Human Services will work out those details.

S.C. Democrats and human rights groups condemned the actions by President Donald Trump and McMaster.

“Republicans in South Carolina do not embody the Christian values of compassion and empathy. They may preach it, but they certainly do not practice it,” said S.C. Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson, calling the McMaster’s Medicaid action “a cheap and callous measure” and “mean-spirited.”

“President Trump ended 2017 by giving the wealthiest Americans an enormous tax cut that will be paid for by low- and middle-income families, and is starting 2018 by continuing his attack on vulnerable populations,” said Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.”

Sue Berkowitz with the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center said pregnant women and working parents with very low incomes likely make up most of the state’s Medicaid recipients who are not disabled, elderly or children.

“Are we going to require all of them to work if they've got young children and they can't afford child care?” she asked. “If they're in a rural area and there's no transportation, are we going to provide transportation? And why are we assuming that folks don't want to work?”

Berkowitz said McMaster and his administration should complete an analysis of who is on Medicaid in South Carolina before deciding to pursue work requirements.

“If all we want to do is make sure we ... kick people off, then it makes sense. If we want to better people's life, there are other ways to do it.”

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