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More than 1,800 Virginians Urge State to Abandon Harmful Work Requirements as Part of Medicaid Expansion

Of 1,832 comments submitted about Virginia’s plan to expand Medicaid, just three supported the proposal to include work requirements.

Richmond, VAYoung Invincibles joined more than 1,800 Virginians in warning state officials that imposing arbitrary work requirements as part of the state’s expansion of Medicaid will unnecessarily hurt low-income Virginians and Virginians of color. In comments submitted earlier this year to the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the organization expressed concern about the disproportionate harm that Medicaid work requirements could cause to the 255,000 young adults in Virginia that are either currently enrolled in Medicaid or will become eligible with expansion.

In all, 1,832 Virginians submitted comments during the recent comment period on the state’s plan to expand Medicaid. Of those comments, just three supported the proposal to institute new, restrictive work requirements for new Medicaid enrollees.

“Virginians have spoken loud and clear: Work requirements are bad for Virginians and bad for the state,” said Maani Stewart, National Training and Consumer Education Manager for Young Invincibles. “While expanding Medicaid means that as many as 400,000 low-income Virginians will finally have access to basic health care, imposing arbitrary work requirements threatens to undermine that historic progress and hurt Virginians who need care most.

Let’s be clear: the vast majority of Medicaid recipients who are able to work already are working, and most of those who aren’t live with illness or disability, are taking care of a family member, or are attending school. Work requirements are a so-called solution in search of a problem that adds a new, punitive barrier to Virginians getting access to affordable care. That’s why so many Virginians submitted comments to oppose these unnecessary restrictions. Young Invincibles fully supports the expansion of Medicaid, but Virginia must reject these unnecessary restrictions that will keep Virginians from getting the care they need.”

Young Invincibles is the leading research and advocacy organization for young adults, focused on expanding economic opportunity and raising up their voices in the political process. Since the first open enrollment period began in 2013, YI has served as federally-certified Navigators and volunteer Certified Application Counselors (CACs) in northern Virginia, helping hundreds of young adult consumers enroll in health coverage through the ACA and traditional Medicaid. YI also currently leads the northern Virginia ACA coalition to coordinate consumer education and enrollment support.

In their comments, YI underscores:

Work requirements would be especially harmful for young adults of color, further deepening existing inequities. For instance, Young Invincibles estimates that while African Americans make up 19 percent of the young adult population, they account for 34 percent of young Medicaid enrollees.

The application creates a chaotic maze of exemptions, definitions, and red tape, leaving all Medicaid enrollees vulnerable to losing coverage. All Medicaid enrollees, including those already working, will be unduly burdened by documenting, verifying, and reporting hours worked and are at risk of losing coverage. For instance, in Arkansas’ work requirements system, Medicaid enrollees can only submit their verified hours online, causing unfair challenges to households without high speed internet. Young Invincibles estimates that only about half of Virginia’s Medicaid enrollees have access to high speed internet, potentially creating another barrier for enrollees.

Many working Medicaid enrollees, including young adults, work jobs with unpredictable schedules or difficult to verify hours, such as food service, construction, and childcare. These are respectable jobs that add value to Virginia, and it defies logic to punish these workers by forcing them to comply with another bureaucratic hurdle in their already financially-stressed lives.

Research shows that work requirements do not actually increase employment in the long run. Research by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that over a five-year period, there is little difference in employment rates between public assistance households that are subject to work-requirements versus those that are not.