Teresa Miller, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, doubled down this week on her views about implementing work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients.
Miller said work requirements for a program like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) makes sense because it is cash assistance. If a TANF participant lands a job, that solves their need for money. But Medicaid is different, she said.
“Medicaid is not welfare,” she continued. “Medicaid is access to healthcare. No one’s getting rich off of Medicaid. If they have Medicaid, it means they can go see a doctor if they’re sick.”
Last month, Miller discussed the issue with Republican leaders in the state Senate. In that meeting, she said a work requirement would likely affect about 90,000 people, but the state would have to spend money to add staff to determine what recipients must find work.
Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill last year that would have required Medicaid recipients to work 20 hours a week. At least two Republican state senators have said they plan to bring the measure back again.
Medicaid work requirements, which have been implemented in Indiana and New Hampshire and struck down in Arkansas and Kentucky by the federal courts, require able-bodied beneficiaries to work, volunteer or participate in job training in order to maintain benefits.
Miller called Arkansas the “poster child” of why work requirements fail in Medicaid, noting that about 18,000 people lost their benefits because of the confusing bureaucratic process recipients had to follow.
Miller said her department wants to help people find jobs and volunteer opportunities, which is why her staff is working with the state Department of Labor and Industry to develop an outreach plan to Medicaid enrollees.
She also addressed concerns about the state’s General Assistance program. The program giving recipients a monthly stipend will expire at the end of the month. Right now, department officials are working with the United Way of Pennsylvania, which runs the statewide 2-1-1 system that connects people with nonprofit and government agencies that can help those in need.
About 15,000 organizations will receive an email this week that will detail how they can help individuals who will be losing funding. The email will make sure they’re in 2-1-1’s database and their contact information in correct.
“A lot of the folks that are served through General Assistance, they’re connected to the social safety network somehow,” she said. “And so, I think the best way to help make sure they’re not falling through the cracks is to work with and partner with those entities and to give them whatever information we can.”