MEDICAID: Feds Move To Block States From Discouraging Use
Sunday's New York Times reports that in an attempt to keep people off of welfare rolls, federal officials have urged states like Maryland, Wisconsin and especially New York to encourage people to utilize other government programs, notably Medicaid and food stamps. Notes the Times, "This touting of public charity may seem startling, even contradictory, at a time when government officials are pushing work, not welfare. But food stamps and Medicaid are considered vital entitlements that keep working people from slipping off and the newly employed from slipping back on." Municipalities are permitted under federal law to discourage welfare applications. Although the right to discourage does not extend to the Medicaid or food stamps programs, Liz Schott of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that the recent "zeal to reduce the welfare caseloads hasn't been separated from food stamps and Medicaid." And "for some officials, the dividing line is still blurry:" Texas currently gives awards to "welfare offices that discourage the largest numbers of people from applying for welfare and food stamps." Not all states are raising barriers. South Dakota, for example, "hoping to attract people too proud to apply for Medicaid," has replaced the word Medicaid with the term "medical help" in promotional brochures. But as for states that are hesitant to push Medicaid and food stamps -- "tainted, to some, by welfare's sour smell of failure" -- the federal government has stated in no uncertain terms that as federal entitlements, their use cannot be discouraged and indeed must be facilitated (Swarns, 11/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.