TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposed change to Kansas' privatized Medicaid program would compel about 12,000 adults to work to obtain benefits, making the state the first in the country to have such a requirement.
Gov. Sam Brownback's administration said Friday requiring some Medicaid recipients to work would improve their lives and increase their self-esteem. Advocates for Medicaid recipients said requiring work for Medicaid is illegal. The proposal would have to be approved by the federal government, which could take months, The Wichita Eagle reported.
The KanCare program, which serves more than 400,000 residents, currently doesn't include any work requirement.
"We think it does people good to get encouragement and help getting a job. We think that's good for people, it's good for how they feel about themselves, it's good for their quality of life," said Angela de Rocha, KanCare spokeswoman.
The administration noted that a relatively small number of people who are not currently working will have to find jobs. Of the 12,000 people that will be affected, the administration said most are already required to work because they receive welfare assistance. Kansas officials said its proposal would follow current welfare work rules that require 20 hours of work a week.
Some people, such as pregnant women, the disabled, those in long-term care and people caring for children under 6 would be exempt, and more exemptions are possible.
Other states have proposed work requirements for Medicaid but the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hasn't approved any of them.
Advocates for Medicaid recipients noted that federal administrations before President Donald Trump didn't allow work requirements.
"There's one goal for work requirements: it's to reduce access to services," said David Jordan, director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, who added that any new work requirement would likely result in litigation.
The KanCare 2.0 proposal also includes several pilot programs designed to improve care for individuals with disabilities, children in foster care and others.
The state wants to reduce the use of psychotropic medications among foster children, and lower the number of placements foster children experience, said Susan Mosier, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"We want to focus on these children and on providing service identification, coordination and provision for these youth in foster care to increase stability at home and a school," Mosier said.
The state will have public comments meetings on the proposals in November.
Information from: The Wichita Eagle