DOUBLING DOWN: Hutchinson administration insisted the Medicaid work rule is good for people, no matter how many thousands less coverage for their illnesses. Brian Chilson

The heartless Hutchinson administration is feeling the heat from its likely illegal and punitive Medicaid work requirement, made doubly punitive by a computer-only reporting requirement for people without computers, broadband access or transportation to get to computers to log into a system that doesn’t operate 24 hours a day. But the governor and his mouthpieces doubled down yesterday, insisting this is all about making deadbeats better, more productive citizens. One key problem: Work requirements don’t achieve these aims.

I’ve reported this before, but it bears repeating on a day when Hutchinson’s flak, J.R. Davis, was issuing this kind of sanctimony:


State pays ~$570/mo, per person for insurance premium. Asking those who are able to work/volunteer/train 20hrs a week w/ 3 months as a cushion seems more than reasonable. Connecting ppl to work, strengthening AR’s workforce & helping ppl move up economic ladder—all good things.

This is built on faulty presumptions, the first being that all the nearly 5,000 already kicked off and the next 6,000 to come are NOT working, as opposed to being uninformed of the rule and not computer-ready. It also assumes that there is a guaranteed 80 hours per month of work for every person out there, unaffected by seasonal or business issues. It presumes those able-bodied under Medicaid rules are able enough for all available jobs.

PS: Of that $570, the state currently pays 6 percent, or about $34 a month. The feds pay the rest. And the failure of the state to make contact with thousands of people pretty well puts the lie to their pathway to employment aims. That and the failure of the state to increase spending on work support programs.


But never mind that. Back to the notion that making people work for health coverage is uplifting.

From the Center for Budget Priorities:


Evidence from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program — touted as a model for Medicaid work rules  — shows that work requirements won’t move people out of poverty and eliminate their need for health coverage.

A comprehensive review of work requirement experiments and policies for cash assistance recipients shows:

Employment increases among cash assistance recipients who were subject to work requirements were modest and faded over time. For the recipients, employment rose significantly in the first two years of programs that mandated participation in work-related activities but, by the fifth year, the difference in employment rates between those who faced work requirements and those who didn’t had faded. Over five years, at least three-quarters of recipients worked, regardless of whether they faced work requirements.

Stable employment among cash assistance recipients subject to work requirements proved the exception, not the norm. The share of recipients subject to work requirements who worked stably — i.e., in 75 percent of the quarters in years three through five — was small, ranging from 22.1 to 40.8 percent.

Over the long term, the most successful programs supported efforts to boost the education and skills of those subject to work requirements, rather than simply requiring them to search for work or find a job. The two most successful welfare-to-work programs, in Portland, Oregon, and Riverside, California, are often characterized as “work first” programs that required individuals to find jobs quickly, but both supported participation in education or training for some participants. For example, the Portland program, which had the most significant long-term impacts on earnings, initially assigned some participants to short-term training programs and encouraged them to hold out for better-paying jobs.

Most cash assistance recipients subject to work requirements stayed poor, and some became poorer. Although recipients were likelier to be employed within two years of facing work requirements, their earnings weren’t enough to lift them out of poverty — and, in some programs, the share of families living in deep poverty rose. Only two of 13 programs studied significantly reduced the share of families living in poverty, and in all of them, recipients facing work requirements were likelier to live in deep poverty than above the poverty line.

Voluntary employment programs can significantly boost employment without the negative impacts of ending basic assistance for individuals who can’t meet mandatory work requirements. The main downside of imposing work requirements on public benefit recipients is the harm they can cause to the individuals — and their families — who can’t comply and lose essential assistance as a result. The results from a rigorous evaluation of the Jobs-Plus demonstration, an employment program for public housing residents, suggest that voluntary work programs can be successful without the harmful consequences that typically accompany work requirements.

We can’t all have six-figure jobs in air-conditioned Capitol offices pumping arbeitmachtfrei  propaganda.

Asa wants red meat to toss the mean-spirited legislature (with its fat pay, perks and solid gold health insurance for part-time work). Punishing the poor by cutting Medicaid is USDA prime.