Debt ceiling negotiations center around Medicaid work requirements

Work requirements for Medicaid and other federal assistance programs are at the center of debt ceiling negotiations between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden, ABC News reported May 23. 

Mr. McCarthy has called tougher work requirements a "red line" in the ongoing negotiations to reduce federal spending in exchange for addressing the debt ceiling, according to the report. 

President Biden has said he would consider some work requirements, but not ones that would affect people's healthcare or other areas of "consequence," according to the report. Several Democrats have called the proposed requirements a nonstarter. 

House Republicans included work requirements in a bill to raise the debt ceiling into next year. Under the proposal, Medicaid beneficiaries must work, volunteer or be part of a work program for 80 hours per month — or participate in some combination of those activities. Those rules would affect beneficiaries ages 19 to 56. It includes exceptions for pregnant women, parents and caregivers, as well as those who are physically or mentally unable to work, as determined by a physician. The proposal allows states to keep those who do not comply with work requirements enrolled in the program, but those states would take on the full cost of coverage for those enrollees. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the proposal would result in an estimated 600,000 people losing coverage and would save the federal government $109 billion over a 10-year period. It also said the proposal would have "a negligible effect on employment status or hours worked by people who would be subject to the work requirements."

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