More than 100,000 low-income parents could lose health care coverage under a Medicaid work-requirement bill being considered in the Florida Legislature, experts estimate.
Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families based its Florida prediction on the impact of similar policies in other states that resulted in roughly 20 percent of Medicaid participants losing coverage.
The state estimates that about 500,000 Floridians would fall under the work-requirement rule being debated.
And unlike other states, the bill being considered by the Florida House would not make exceptions for parents.
“This is either an extraordinarily ill-informed or extremely cynical attempt to cut off low income, mostly mothers from the Medicaid program,” said Joan Alker, director of the Georgetown center.
Because Florida did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, those who qualify for the health care program are limited to pregnant women, disabled people, seniors in nursing homes and very poor parents.
The parents would be most affected by the work-requirement rule. To be eligible for Medicaid in Florida, they have to earn below 33 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $7,000 a year for a family of three.
Under HB 955, which is awaiting approval by the full House, parents with children younger than 3 months would be excluded from the requirements. But if their children are between 3 months and 6-years-old, the parent would have to work at least 20 hours a week. If parents have children older than 6, they would have to work at least 30 hours a week.
Legislators based the requirement on similar rules for families that receive temporary cash assistance from the state.
If it passes, it would put families in a catch 22, Alker said. If the parent doesn’t work, they would lose their health insurance. But if the parent does work, they would make too much to qualify for Medicaid, she said.
People who work 20 hours a week at minimum wage in Florida could earn $677 a month. That is above the 33 percent of the poverty level level required for Medicaid recipients.
Furthermore, Alker said the bill doesn’t address barriers that traditionally keep low-income families from working, such as transportation, affordable child care and job training.
“It's clear that this will result in dramatic coverage losses for these poor families,” she said. “It's also clear this will not help the perfectly legitimate goal of trying to secure employment for this population.”
The bill does not have a companion in the Senate. Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in an email to the News Service of Florida that Galvano is "open to work requirements for able-bodied adults." She also said his past support for such requirements has come with aid for on-the-job training, job-placement activities and pursuit of educational opportunities.
Legislators are considering the bill even as similar work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas were recently struck down by a judge.