TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida might consider imposing work requirements on adults enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, a move some critics contend would be “cruel” for poor people who rely on the safety-net program for health care.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, asserted in January that the state would not consider such a move after President Donald Trump’s administration announced it would give states leeway to impose work requirements.
But a state House panel on Wednesday voted 14-4 for a bill that would provide authority to request federal approval of a requirement that people in the Medicaid managed-care program provide proof of working, attending school or trying to find jobs.
Corcoran denied that it was a reversal in position.
“There is no change in policy. The work requirements referred to in the bill are consistent with what the House has always said,” Corcoran told The News Service of Florida in a prepared statement. “Assistance should be given to those truly in need, not able-bodied working age childless adults.”
Almost 4 million people were enrolled in Florida’s Medicaid program as of a December report, the latest available data. More than 285,000 of the enrollees were 75 or older, and more than 1.4 million were under age 10.
The Trump administration sent a letter to state Medicaid directors in January announcing a policy to allow work requirements in states that have what are known as “Medicaid 1115 waivers.” Florida has such a waiver.
In an interview at the time, Corcoran said mandating the work requirements wasn’t “necessarily something that we would do,” since Florida didn’t expand Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“We don’t have childless able-bodied working age adults in our system, so I don’t know how that would transpose to us,” Corcoran said at the time. “If you look at our Medicaid population, mostly children, mostly seniors, and single pregnant moms, I don’t think that is necessarily something that we would do.”
The Senate might not go along with work requirements. Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who oversees the Senate health-care budget committee, said it is unlikely senators would tackle the issue with less than three weeks left in this year’s legislative session.
“It’s so late in session to be bringing up a huge policy shift like that,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, called the policy “cruel.”
“Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Health care to me is life. Are you saying these people don’t deserve to live?” he said adding, “I think this is cruel. And I think the Senate as a body has a problem with cruel stuff like that.”
Mandating work requirements has been a long-standing priority for conservatives, and the Florida House considered similar legislation last year. The state already has work requirements for welfare, which in Florida is known as the Temporary Cash Assistance Program. Florida requires the maximum number of work hours allowed under federal law, which means, for example, that single parents with children over age 6 are required to work 30 hours per week.
The proposal (HB 751) approved Wednesday by the House Health & Human Services Committee would authorize seeking approval from the Trump administration for a waiver that would impose the same work requirements on anyone enrolled in Medicaid managed care.
Longtime social services lobbyist Karen Woodall said the policy would punish, not help, poor people.
“This is health care. for goodness sake,” Woodall said.