Arizona scotches Medicaid work requirements for poor people

Arizona has quietly mothballed a controversial plan to require some 120,000 people who receive health insurance through that state’s Medicaid program to work, go to school or perform volunteer work, the Associated Press reported Monday.

In an Oct. 17 letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the state cited ongoing litigation in other states that have implemented similar policies as the reason for postponing the work requirements “until further notice.” 

“This decision is informed by the evolving national landscape concerning Medicaid community engagement programs and ongoing litigation regarding the topic,” wrote Jami Snyder, the director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program.

The policy was set to go into effect sometime after summer 2020, and it would have required an estimated 120,000 low-income adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled to report at least 80 hours per month of employment, educational activity, job search, job training or volunteer community service to keep their Medicaid benefits.

Snyder’s letter comes less than a week after an Oct. 11 appellate hearing in a case challenging similar requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. During oral arguments in that case, three federal appeals judges seemed poised to strike down the requirements on the grounds that the government failed to consider how they would affect coverage. 

Those states’ work requirements are already on hold after a federal judge blocked them. That same judge later blocked work requirements enacted in New Hampshire, as well.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version incorrectly said the work requirements would begin in January 2020.


  1. I am 53, I work at home as a landlord/property manager 3.5hrs per day 105hrs mo. SELF EMPLOYED. Before that a caregiver a not from Dr. for the person I cared for also self employed. Both did not pay a cent. I still qualified. I EVEN DONATED BLOOD PLASMA FOR $55 PER WEEK 100 TIMES PER YEAR MEDICAL RESEARCH TOO. YES, I even picked up cans. I qualify still. CARRING for others and doing work should be part of getting free stuff even if it is voluntary or in exchange and it is. One thing though Drug test everyone!

  2. I support the values of work, study, activity participation, civic duties, and volunteering. I agree with the judge though.

    How does any of those values affect coverage? Do we document?

    If we demand proof is it only non profits that prove the person volunteered?

    If a person learns a skill on their own, do they have to pass a test from an organized educational entity?

    Does self employment mean additional reporting to the government on top of paying taxes?

    What if a person sweeps the neighbors’ sidewalks at three in the morning? Does that qualify? Or does the government’s altruism guided by the party in power list the activities that qualify – kind of like prison work crews cleaning roadsides?

    The judges had true concerns over excessive intrusion, proof of contribution to society, and punishment without prosecution but for need. This should be interesting as the case plays out.

  3. I grew up in a time when people paid for medical expenses out-of-pocket. My family was not, by any means, rich, but my brothers and I had our tonsils and appendicitis out, and my mother bore her babies in a hospital. My brother broke his arm and was tended to. All for cash out of pocket. I can remember going into a doctor’s office and his nurse, who was also a nurse, was also the receptionist. This began to change in the 1960s and increased under Nixon who thought HMOs were a good idea. Also, the Hill-Burton law, which mandated hospitals receiving federal funds could not turn away patients for inability to pay. We should not fear “government funded” healthcare — we should fear the paper pushing bureaucracy that has been established.


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