Some of the most at-risk people for opioid addiction live in the poorest regions of the country, such as Appalachia. Many of these people are receiving their insurance via Medicaid, which is available for low-income people, pregnant women and children, and individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income. Between 2011 and 2016, Medicaid spending on prescription treatments for opioid use disorders skyrocketed, from $394.2 million to $929.9 million.
In early 2018, President Trump’s administration opened the doors for states to decide if citizens had to meet work requirements to qualify for Medicaid. This wasn’t directly in response to the opioid problem, rather, it was meant to save the government money by refusing to cover people it viewed as essentially mooching off the system by refusing to work and collecting benefits. Unfortunately, this policy could harm far more people than it would help.
The first work requirement policy to be approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was in Kentucky, under which enrollees can lose coverage if they fail to provide evidence of 80 hours of work or work activities each month. Even people who are already working could be at risk of losing coverage, such as people who work jobs with unstable hours who don’t meet the 80-hour requirement every month. People who are not already working, which makes up about 40 percent of those enrollees who would be subject to work requirements, are at the most risk of completely losing coverage. Many of these people could have difficulty finding jobs as a result of poor health, substance use disorders, or lack of education. Also, since many of them live in poorer areas, the job market isn’t booming even for people without these problems. More than 80 percent of these Medicaid recipients report that they are unable to work due to an illness or disability, because they are caring for family members, or because they are in school.
There are exemptions to the work requirement, but they require recipients to verify either their work status or their qualifications for the exemption every month. For many people with addiction and mental health problems, trying to keep up with this paperwork every month could prove challenging. It’s a sad fact that there are still adults in America who can’t read, even putting aside those with disabilities. Even a single failure to send in the proper paperwork could result in a loss of coverage. This could be disastrous to someone in the middle of a substance abuse treatment program. If someone is forced to quit in the middle of detox, for example, they’re almost certain to relapse in response to the symptoms of withdrawal.
Encouraging people to work sounds like a worthy goal, but the truth is that taking away vulnerable people’s access to healthcare is only going to worsen their chances of finding a job.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.