By NYAMEKYE DANIEL
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — While some policy analysts say the federal government’s decision to reject Georgia’s work requirement and premium proposal for its partial Medicaid expansion plan kills a good incentive, others say it highlights the need for a full expansion.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it rejected the provisions based on the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to reduce health disparities.
CMS said the plan counteracts the goal of the program, especially amid greater health risks and economic interruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“CMS believes that the COVID-19 pandemic and its expected aftermath have made the state’s work requirement infeasible,” the federal agency wrote in a Dec. 23 letter to the state. “In addition, implementation of the work requirement to suspend coverage or disenroll beneficiaries who become eligible under the demonstration during the public health emergency for COVID-19 would currently not be in compliance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) temporary increase in federal Medicaid funding, which is conditioned on the state’s maintenance of certain existing Medicaid parameters.”
Georgia Budget Policy Institute said more than 230,000 additional Georgians would be eligible for the state- and federal-funded program without the work requirement, but it would cost the state more than a full expansion.
The federal government gives states the option to raise the income eligibility requirement for Medicaid to open the program to more participants. States can choose to do a full expansion of the program and raise the income limit to 138% of the federal poverty level – or $17,000 for an individual. The state’s partial expansion, Georgia Pathways, would extend the Medicaid income eligibility to a maximum of 100% of the federal poverty line — or a little more than $12,000 annually. The Trump administration had approved Georgia’s plan in October 2020.
Under Pathways, Georgians would have to complete a minimum of 80 hours of work per month or other activities, such as training or education, to qualify for the program. It was supposed to start July 1. CMS has warned it had concerns about the work requirement since February and placed Georgia’s implementation of the plan on standby until Georgia could explain why the requirements should stay in place.