COLUMBUS — Advocates, health care providers and others have slammed a state plan that would require most non-disabled adults on Medicaid to work or lose their tax-funded health care.
At a public hearing in Columbus, many complained it would force Ohio’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens off Medicaid rolls by creating additional obstacles for accessing care. Most of those who can work, do, they said, an argument state officials confirm.
"We don’t think this will benefit Medicaid recipients. We think this creates an undue burden on county Job and Family Service agencies and will create more uninsured low-income individuals who must seek uncompensated care in our emergency rooms and health centers," said Nita Carter, executive director of the Ohio Public Health Association.
Dr. Katherine Romanos, a family physician in Columbus, said that patients who can no longer access care or medications will be put at grave risk risk, particularly those with mental illness, drug addiction or very treatable conditions like high blood pressure.
"Suddenly they can’t have their treatment and they relapse," Romanos said.
Recovering drug addict, Angela Dickson, said work requirements could jeopardize lives, especially for those with substance abuse. Twice, she said, she ended up in the emergency room after losing Medicaid coverage and being denied treatment. On another occasion, Dickson said she committed "criminal thefts" so she’d go to jail and get treatment.
"When someone needs help and has no medical access, this is what happens," she said.
Policy Matters Ohio’s Wendy Patton the work requirements aren’t necessary, don’t make sense in today’s low-wage job market, put an unfair burden on patients and could be unconstitutional.
"Sixty-one percent of Medicaid patients already work," she said. "Many work in low-paying industries like retail or fast food, which offer low and inconsistent hours and little or no paid leave. Patients could easily fall short of the 80-hour-a-month work requirement."
"Those who lose hours because they are sick or caring for a sick child could lose health coverage," Patton said.
Medicaid Director Barbara Sears said she could make changes to Ohio’s proposal based on the feedback and the public comments will be included in the state’s request when it is submitted later this year to the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services for approval.
Twenty people testified Thursday, double the number who spoke during a hearing last week in Cincinnati.
Under the plan, roughly 700,000 adults covered under Ohio’s 2014 Medicaid expansion would be required to work at least 20 hours a week or show they are looking for a job, attending school or in job training.
As directed by legislative Republicans, the state would exempt those who are over age 55, in treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, have intensive health-care needs or serious mental illness, as well as parents and caretakers.
Medicaid officials project about 1 in 20 expansion enrollees — some 36,000 adults — will need to find a job or face the loss of coverage. Most, state officials say, already have a job or would not be required to work due to age, chronic conditions or other exemptions.
Ohio is poised to be the 12th state to seek to the controversial work policy. The Trump’s administration so far has approved Kentucky and Indiana, and Ohio’s also is expected to get approval.