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Indiana becomes second state with Medicaid work requirement



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Alex M. Azar II testifies before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on his nomination to be Secretary of Health and Human Services on Nov. 29, 2017. Indiana became the second state to receive permission from the federal government to require Medicaid enrollees to obtain employment to keep their healthcare benefits. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Indiana became the second state to receive permission from the federal government to require Medicaid enrollees to obtain employment to keep their healthcare benefits.

The waiver, permitted under the state's Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0 , would require able-bodied, working age people who receive Medicaid benefits to seek employment or other community focused activity. This waiver is extended through 2020.

The waiver and attached requirements were announced by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Gov. Eric Holcomb in Indianapolis on Friday. Azar was sworn in to his position on Monday. 

“Today’s approval is the result of the hard work of Governor Holcomb, his team, and our team at CMS, and serves as a testament to Indiana’s ongoing commitment to improving the lives of its Medicaid beneficiaries,” Azar said in a Friday HHS release.

The Medicaid program, a joint federal and state-level initiative which began in the 1960s, provides healthcare for low-income families, the elderly and pregnant women.

Indiana has received a Medicaid waiver under HIP in the past, though state officials were blocked by the federal government in 2015 from installing such work requirements. 

Indiana's first Medicaid waiver required some enrollees to pay monthly premiums on their healthcare, a policy which may have contributed to 25,000 less people enrolled from the program between it's installment in 2015 and last October, according to Governing.com.

The waiver was rolled out with guidance from Seema Verma, a health policy advisor to Indiana's governor. Verma is now the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency which oversees Medicaid.

Conservative politicians see such policies' goal as ultimately weening low-income people off of governmental assistance. Many Democrats believe programs like Medicaid already encourage employment by allowing those enrolled to focus on providing other resources for their families.

The waiver approved last week includes provisions to address the opioid epidemic, according to a copy of the expanded waiver available on the HHS website. 

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, lauded the extension of HIP in a Friday release, saying the extension would allow Indiana to expand substance abuse programs.

“I’m pleased that today’s announcement will ensure that hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers can continue to access health care coverage through HIP 2.0, which was made possible by the Affordable Care Act," Donnelly said in the release.

Jesse Naranjo

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