Federal agency blocks Indiana’s Medicaid work requirements


INDIANAPOLIS — The Biden administration has revoked the federal authorization for Indiana’s planned work requirements for low-income residents who receive their health insurance through Medicaid.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb sought to implement the work requirements for the Healthy Indiana Plan program in 2019 under approval from the Trump administration. But it was put on hold after being challenged by a federal lawsuit and as suspensions from the program were halted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified Indiana officials last week that the employment mandate “risks significant coverage losses and harm to beneficiaries” and does “not promote the objectives of the Medicaid program,” The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The agency cited the broad exemptions to Indiana’s “Gateway to Work” requirement, coupled with the time and paperwork needed to report work hours, made it more likely than not the mandate would “influence the behavior of a very small number of individuals, while risking coverage loss for many.”

Indiana’s plan aimed to require those who don’t qualify for exemptions — including medical problems, being older than 60 and being primary caretakers of young or disabled children — to report 20 hours a month of work or related activity, or face coverage loss.

More than 500,000 adults are covered under the Healthy Indiana Plan program, which is funded by federal Medicaid dollars but requires participants to make a financial contribution, according to the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. Initial projections in 2019 showed that about 130,000 HIP participants could have been affected by the new rules.

Federal court orders had blocked similar work requirements in other states.

Holcomb said he was disappointed by the decision and that he believed the “Gateway to Work” plan “had the potential to help so many Hoosiers.”

“We’ll continue to support the health and well-being of Hoosiers, and our participants will receive much needed job training and career support to help them transition from Medicaid to full employment,” Holcomb said. “With our growing economy, we need every able Hoosier to join the workforce.”

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