Commentary: WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham sent the following letter to Governor Martinez requesting that she refrain from filing a request with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries throughout New Mexico. Without Congressional authorization, the Trump Administration announced that states may start conditioning Medicaid edibility on meeting work requirements, which would create serious issues in the State. Instead, the Congresswoman stands ready to work with the Martinez Administration on strategies to increase economic growth and provide job training services to Medicaid beneficiaries in order to break the cycle of poverty in the State.
A copy of the letter can be found here. The text is below.
January 12, 2018
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Dear Governor Martinez,
Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they would allow states to apply for waivers to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries. Congress has never imposed any such conditions on eligibility or authorized such an action, which I believe is likely illegal under current law. However, I write to ask you not to make such a request, and instead, collaborate with me and other stakeholders on other strategies to create jobs and break the cycle of poverty in the State. As you know, approximately half of New Mexico’s population is currently receiving health care through Medicaid—one of the highest percentages in the nation. The vast majority of these beneficiaries are disabled, children, primary caretakers, or are already working. Further, New Mexico has the third highest unemployment rate in the country at 6.1%.
I am concerned that new work requirements would not only unfairly contribute to the erroneous stigma that beneficiaries don’t work, but could ultimately lead to many New Mexicans losing coverage—something that we both do not want. It is in many cases impossible to ask individuals who are struggling to make ends meet to find jobs that frankly do not exist. And an increase in the number of uninsured would cost the state more money in the long term as individuals avoid receiving preventative care or ignore their health issues. Small problems turn into big ones which will ultimately drive people to seek care in costly emergency rooms, costing millions of dollars and needless suffering.
I am also concerned with the State’s capacity to administer a Medicaid work requirement program, given issues regarding the implementation of the SNAP program and the CMS corrective action plan at the NM Human Services Department. Any State Medicaid work requirement program could encounter similar issues and result in individuals being inappropriately denied health care. Instead, I believe that resources should be used to expand services for New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens, and I stand ready to ensure that the federal government partners with you in every way possible to accomplish that goal.
New Mexico has some of the worst health outcomes, highest uninsured rates, and highest unemployment rates of any state. I believe that new Medicaid requirements would exasperate all of those issues. However, I am convinced that there are other ways for the State to provide job training services and other help for Medicaid beneficiaries who have fallen on hard times. I would be happy to partner with you on those efforts.
Thank you for your kind consideration of my request.