Jump in Medicaid Enrollment Followed Welfare Reform
The number of U.S. residents who receive cash payments from welfare has decreased since the enactment of a reform law in 1996, but enrollment in other public programs for low-income residents, such as Medicaid, has increased over the same period, according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports.
In 2003, enrollment in Medicaid and other public programs for low-income residents totaled 44 million, compared with about 39 million in 1996, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2005, enrollment in Medicaid alone totaled 45 million, "pushed up in part by rising health costs and fewer employers offering benefits" the AP/Times reports.
Critics of the welfare reform law maintain that "the numbers offer fresh evidence that few former recipients have become self-sufficient, even though millions have moved from welfare to work," the AP/Times reports. The law required most welfare beneficiaries to work but allowed them to continue to receive some payments after they began jobs.
In addition, the law mandated a five-year limit on cash payments for most Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, beneficiaries.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), chair of the House Ways and Means Income and Security and Family Support Subcommittee, said, "We said get a job, any job. And now we expect them to be making it on these minimum-wage jobs."
Vivyan Adair, an assistant professor of women's studies at Hamilton College, said, "If the goal of welfare reform was to get people off the welfare rolls, bravo. If the goal was to reduce poverty and give people economic and job stability, it was not a success."
Wade Horn, a welfare expert for the Bush administration, said, "I think more attention has to be paid to helping those families move up the income scale, increasing their independence of other government welfare programs. The true goal of welfare-to-work programs should be self-sufficiency" (Ohlemacher, AP/Contra Costa Times, 2/26).