CMS gives thumbs-up to Medicaid work requirements in Ohio

Sign that says "welcome to Ohio"
Ohio has become the eighth state to earn approval from CMS for Medicaid work requirements. (Getty/benkrut)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has approved a waiver request for work requirements in Ohio’s Medicaid program. 

CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced the approval in a tweet, noting that Ohio added 20,000 jobs in January and has maintained a low unemployment rate. 

“With unemployment steady under 5%, there are great opportunities to connect adults on Medicaid with opportunities to improve lives and health,” Verma tweeted. 

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CMS rolled out guidance on these waivers in January 2018, and since then eight states, including Ohio, have had requests approved. Several additional states have submitted waivers that the agency has yet to weigh in on. 

RELATED: The four biggest Medicaid controversies in 2018 

The work requirements have been controversial, as critics argue they go against the goals of Medicaid, which is to provide health coverage to the poor. Two states’ waivers—Kentucky and Arkansas—currently await a federal judge’s decision on their legality. 

CMS has defended the waivers, arguing that they promote health and can lift people out of poverty. 

Arkansas is the only state where such work requirements have formally been launched, and in the last several months of 2018, more than 18,000 people lost Medicaid coverage as a result of the work requirement. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that most of these losses were a result of the administrative requirements associated with reporting work hours. 

CMS issued new guidance on the issue on Thursday, aiming to provide greater oversight and monitoring to the work requirements. 

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