Progressive activists opposed to Medicaid work requirements for able-bodied adults are trying to use the courts to stop the new policy in states like Kentucky, Arkansas, and New Hampshire. One of the plaintiffs is a New Hampshire man who says he can’t meet work requirements because they interfere with his “choice to live a subsistence lifestyle that prioritizes living off the land.”

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Analysis

Michael Graham

On Wednesday, D.C. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg ruled against work requirements for Medicaid recipients in both Kentucky and Arkansas. The Trump administration supports work requirements (as do an overwhelming number of Americans, according to polls) and has granted waivers to eight states to begin requiring some Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer. An additional seven states are seeking similar waivers.

New Hampshire Democrats OK’d Work Requirements

Last year, New Hampshire Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise on expanding Medicaid in the Granite State. Republicans agreed to accept the (potentially large) financial risk of expanding the Medicaid pool by more than 50,000 people; and Democrats accepted a work requirement for able-bodied adults who don’t face issues of child care, physical handicaps, etc.

“I’m 57, self-employed, pay $550 a month for insurance, and I get to pay $8,000 in deductibles before I get coverage.  I would love not to have to work for my health coverage and hike every day in the mountains.” —  Kathi Soule of Twin Mountain, N.H.

Now, however, Granite State progressives are trying to kill the deal in the courts. The National Health Law Program (NHeLP), New Hampshire Legal Assistance, and National Center for Law and Economic Justice have also filed a lawsuit before Judge Boasberg, on behalf of four Granite State Medicaid recipients who they say would suffer unfairly if required to work in exchange for their free health care benefits.

One of their plaintiffs is Ian Ludders of Unity, N.H. According to the National Health Law Program, Ludders is a 40-year-old man “who lives by himself in a small cabin on a land trust. He has chosen to live a subsistence lifestyle that prioritizes living off the land. Ludders supports himself through seasonal work including working in apple orchards, picking vegetables on farms, and other jobs.”

“Time off between jobs is important to Mr. Ludders,” the lawsuit claims, “because it allows him to focus on subsistence activities such as growing his own food and chopping firewood to heat his cabin.” If required to work or volunteer 20 to 25 hours a week, “he expects that he will no longer have time to complete his subsistence activities.”

Plaintiff Quit Job Because He Didn’t Like the Pay

Another plaintiff is Samuel Philbrick, a 26-year-old who works as a cashier in Henniker, N.H. and still lives with his parents. According to NHeLP, “Mr. Philbrick does not have a driver’s license and generally has to rely on his father to drive him places.”

He stopped working at a nearby pizza restaurant because it doesn’t pay him as much as he’d like. “Philbrick will have difficulty getting transportation to complete other qualifying activities,” the lawsuit claims.

Are American taxpayers OK with paying for government benefits so people can “choose to live a subsistence lifestyle”? Approximately 4 million Americans walk to work every day. Do they want their taxes to pay for someone who is unwilling to do the same?

“I’m 57, self-employed, pay $550 a month for insurance, and I get to pay $8,000 in deductibles before I get coverage,” said Kathi Soule of nearby Twin Mountain, N.H., in response to Mr. Ludders’ lawsuit. “I would love not to have to work for my health coverage and hike every day in the mountains.”

Polls: More Than 60% Support for Work Requirements

Multiple polls taken in the past two years show that more than 60 percent of Americans support some work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. A 2016 survey released by the American Enterprise Institute found that 87 percent of Americans supported them — including 81 percent support among the poor.

Greg Moore of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, a conservative group who backed the work requirement, points out that “local employers are desperate for workers right now. They are bending over backward to accommodate them — on hours, on finding transportation. They can’t fill the jobs. The idea that able-bodied people in this economy can’t work doesn’t match the facts,” Moore said.

About the Author

Michael Graham is the political editor at InsideSources.com.  You can reach him at michael@insidesources.com.

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