When Medicaid was created in the mid-1960s, it was intended to provide medical care for people who truly had nowhere else to turn—namely, individuals with disabilities and the elderly. But over time, the program has ballooned, now serving 76 million people.
Even worse, nearly 40% of enrollees are now able-bodied adults. There are close to twice as many able-bodied adults in Medicaid today as there are elderly and individuals with disabilities combined.
Medicaid’s rapid growth is no secret, and it’s cause for concern across the country. Those who work with state policymakers see it firsthand—state leaders realize how consuming Medicaid has become. From Maine to Montana, the overwhelming growth of the program is often at the top of their minds.
That’s because it quite literally dictates state budgets: Medicaid gets paid first. Everything else (including education, infrastructure, and public safety) gets the scraps. Continue reading
Almost exactly one year ago, Arkansas became the first state to ever implement commonsense work requirements for able-bodied, working-age adults on Medicaid—and the far Left freaked out.
Since that time, they’ve proceeded to outright slander the state, falsely asserting that the requirement would leave the state worse off, hurt Arkansans, and was nothing more than a “reporting requirement” designed to confuse enrollees with paperwork rather than help them find a job. They’ve waged an all-out war on work, even using the courts to try to (temporarily) thwart the will of Arkansans, who overwhelmingly support the requirement—Republicans and Democrats alike.
They’ve gone all out for a few big reasons: they want as much dependency as possible. They think a life-long welfare check is better for Americans than a paycheck. And they also know that Medicaid work requirements are a signature achievement of President Trump’s first term.
If they can stop Arkansas, they think they can stop work requirements from spreading to other states, increase dependency, and deal a blow to President Trump at the same time. For the far Left, it’s a win-win-win.
But there’s bad news for them: from Day One, they’ve been wrong about Arkansas’ commonsense welfare reform, and a new study from the Foundation from Government Accountability proves it. Continue reading
Today, the food stamp program is one of the largest welfare programs in the federal budget. And of the nearly 40 million people enrolled, 20 million of them are able-bodied adults. This surging enrollment has led to record-high spending, topping out at nearly $80 billion just a few years ago.
The good news is that there’s a proven way to reduce dependency and improve lives at the same time: work requirements. And one state is showing once again just how effective work requirements can be, as detailed in a brand new study from the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA).
In 2015, as one of his first major policy moves as governor, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson instructed his welfare agency to let the state’s work requirement waiver expire. Under federal law, able-bodied adults without dependents are expected to work, train, or volunteer at least part-time if they want to receive food stamps. But until Governor Hutchinson took office, Arkansas had never enforced this requirement statewide.
Starting in January 2016, that changed. Able-bodied, childless adults would be expected to work part-time if they wanted to stay on food stamps. Here’s what happened. Continue reading
Exploding welfare enrollment is one of the largest challenges facing states today. Since 2000, the number of people dependent on Medicaid has more than doubled and the number of able-bodied adults on the program has nearly quadrupled. As a result, total Medicaid spending has skyrocketed, almost tripling from $206 billion in 2000 to nearly $600 billion today.
Even worse, Medicaid spending is now consuming nearly a third of state budgets, leaving fewer and fewer dollars to spend on education, infrastructure, and law enforcement. It’s clear that the current path is unsustainable; states need options to rein in spending, relieve taxpayers, and reserve resources for the truly needy. And the answer is work.
In 2011, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback instituted new sanctions in his state’s cash assistance program for able-bodied adults who refused to meet work requirements. But the Brownback administration didn’t just implement the reform and move on — they tracked the impact so they could see what happened to these individuals once they left welfare. Three key results should inspire policymakers in other states and in Washington D.C. to expand work requirements to able-bodied adults in as many programs as possible. Continue reading
Work requirements are a critical part of welfare. Without them in place, welfare can quickly become a way of life instead of a temporary safety net. Unfortunately, states have used numerous workarounds to void work requirements in food stamps, perpetuating dependency and leaving taxpayers on the hook.
One such workaround is blanket waivers. States can get permission from the federal government to exempt able-bodied, childless adults from work requirements if they qualify for work waivers. Under federal law, states must have at least 10 percent unemployment or “a demonstrated lack of job opportunities” to qualify for these waivers, but agency interpretation of these rules has expanded them well beyond their original intent.
In 2015, 42 states were using these waivers to waive work requirements entirely. Thankfully, that trend is starting to reverse and states that are now enforcing work have seen the incomes of former enrollees more than double, more than offsetting lost welfare benefits and leaving them better off overall.
But even if states no longer qualify for blanket waivers, there’s another workaround they can use to skirt work requirements. It’s called the 15 percent exemption. Continue reading
The Heritage Foundation recently published their annual index on culture and opportunity. I was fortunate enough to author a chapter for them on welfare policy.
Here is an excerpt:
Unlike pre-reform recipients, individuals who enroll in the TANF program today know that their time is limited. They know, in most cases, that they are expected to work and that dependence on cash assistance is not a lifestyle they can maintain over the long term. This is good news for their well-being, because research has shown that the less time individuals spend on welfare, the quicker they will go back to work. And when they do, their incomes will more than double on average, more than offsetting lost welfare benefits and leaving them better off than they were before.
You can read the full piece here.
Arkansas made national headlines in 2013 when then-governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, struck a deal to make Arkansas the first southern state to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Shortly thereafter, Beebe exited (stage left), leaving a fiscal, political, and moral disaster for the new administration to grapple with. But now, thanks in large part to the leadership of Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas is taking significant steps toward reversing Obamacare’s devastating impact. Other expansion states should take note. Continue reading
As the dust of the Obama administration continues to settle, a trend is growing across the country: State leaders are stepping up to tackle big problems in their welfare systems. Specifically, states are moving away from policies that promote long-term dependency and towards reforms that are pro-work and pro-independence.
As recently as two years ago, for example, 42 states had a policy of partially or fully waiving work requirements for non-disabled, childless adults on food stamps. Today, however, just seven states are waiving these work requirements entirely and many states with partial waivers are moving to eliminate them. Now one governor is pushing the envelope even further. Continue reading
Co-authored by Nic Horton, Jonathan Ingram and Josh Archambault
For too long, thousands of Kansans have languished in welfare, without hope of a better life. But thanks to one simple policy change, many Kansans are now on the path to a better life.
Under federal law, all able-bodied, childless adults in the food stamp program are required to work or train for work at least 20 hours per week. But with help from the Obama administration, most states have been waiving those requirements in recent years. Last year, for example, more than 40 states waived these critical requirements, fostering a culture of long-term dependency.
But in 2013, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback bucked the trend and instructed state officials to reinstate work requirements and time limits for able-bodied adults. Within three months, half of all able-bodied adults on food stamps had cycled off the program. Enrollment is now 75% lower for this group of adults than it was before work requirements took effect. Continue reading
By Jonathan Ingram, Nic Horton and Josh Archambault — Mr. Ingram is Research Director, Mr. Horton is Policy Impact Specialist and Mr. Archambault is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability.
Governors across the country are leading a new welfare reform revolution. From Maine to Indiana to New Mexico, bold leaders are making common-sense changes that will preserve the safety net for the truly needy.
As this revolution continues to spread across the map, state policymakers need to know these policy changes – restoring work requirements for able-bodied adults without kids on food stamps – are already having transformative results for enrollees and taxpayers.
Work Waivers Foster Dependency
Although federal law requires able-bodied childless adults on food stamps to work or search for work, 42 states partially or fully waived that requirement in 2015. These waivers allow able-bodied adults to stay on the food stamps rolls indefinitely, regardless of whether they’re looking for work.
It’s no surprise, then, that able-bodied adults are staying on food stamps longer than ever, costing taxpayers and the truly needy who rely on the food stamp program for survival.