MEDICAID: Clinton Extends Coverage To More Working Poor
President Clinton is scheduled today to announce new regulations that would extend Medicaid to an additional 135,000 to 200,000 working poor people in 20 states. The New York Times reports that Clinton plans to abolish Medicaid's old restriction that recipients work less than 100 hours per month to qualify for the health insurance program. The administration contends that the old rules "penalized work effort" and "penalized marriage," making it difficult for "adults in two-parent families who work at low-wage jobs for more than 100 hours a month" to receive federal assistance. The Times reports that in "remarks to be delivered" today, Clinton calls the 100-hour limit "the last vestige of the old welfare system" which served to "defy common sense and insult our values." His remarks continue, "Instead of rewarding work, it took away health care from people who secured a full-time job. ... [T]he 100-hour rule was wrong, and now it's history."
Currently, 30 states have permission to waive the 100-hour limit, but Clinton's new regulation -- which does not need congressional approval -- allows the remaining 20 states to abolish or raise the hourly limit. The Times reports that "states will have a financial incentive to so, because the federal government pays 50% to 77% of Medicaid benefits," depending on the state's per capita income. The President's move was well received by health policy analysts, the Times reports. Jennifer Baxendall, a health policy analyst for the National Governor's Association, said: "If the new rules give states an option for more flexibility, that's something we would support. Some states could view this as a nice complement to efforts to help parents move from public assistance to work while keeping their health insurance." Jocelyn Guyer of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called Clinton's announcement "a wonderful policy change." She said, "If states take advantage of this new option, low-income parents can increase the number of hours they work without fear of losing Medicaid coverage." However, the Times notes that "healthy adults of working age are eligible for Medicaid only if they have children," and "the income limit for parents seeking Medicaid is generally far below the official poverty level" (Pear, 8/4).