An advocacy group says thousands of poor parents could lose health coverage if South Carolina’s proposed Medicaid work requirements go into effect.
The state Department of Health and Human Services is seeking a waiver from the federal government which would allow it to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients prove they are working, seeking work, volunteering or in school at least 80 hours each month to receive Medicaid coverage. The agency is taking public comment through January 22 before it submits the request.
The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families estimated between 5,000 and 14,000 South Carolina parents could lose coverage, if the waiver is granted. While that is roughly 6 to 17 percent of all low-income families receiving the Medicaid benefits in South Carolina, the report warns it could disproportionately harm young mothers and minorities.
“It will specifically impact low-income parents, primarily moms,” SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center director Sue Berkowitz said. “Because those are the majority of folks on the low-income family Medicaid program.”
The Georgetown study goes against the state’s estimates that only about 3,000 parents would lose coverage within five years. It pointed to similar rules recently passed in Arkansas which ultimately cost 22 percent of previously-eligible parents their coverage after a few months.
Most Medicaid beneficiaries are children, disabled or living in nursing homes who would not be impacted by the new requirements. However, about 83,000 of South Carolina’s poorest parents are currently enrolled.
Berkowitz worried other states seeking the waivers — such as Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Wisconsin — expanded their Medicaid eligibility requirements under the Affordable Care Act, while South Carolina did not. South Carolina has set the threshold at those living at or below 67 percent of the poverty level, roughly $13,900 per year for a family of three.
She said much of the impact would be on mothers who stay home to care for disabled or elderly family members. “We shouldn’t be predicating the opportunity to get healthcare on whether or not you’re meeting a litmus test suddenly developed by the governor and his Medicaid agency,” she said.
The Georgetown study also noted only one percent of Arkansas newly began reporting their work hours or community engagement and that thousands who lost coverage were apparently unaware of the new requirements. However, unlike Arkansas. South Carolina would allow recipients to submit their information by phone, fax, mail or in-person, in addition to Arkansas’s policy of online-only.