Medicaid Crackdown Could Worsen States' Opioid Addiction Problem

Medicaid Crackdown Could Worsen States' Opioid Addiction Problem
Critics say adding work requirements to Medicaid could worsen the opioid epidemic, but Republicans are promising no one will fall through the cracks.

Some red states are asking the federal government to create a work requirement for Medicaid eligibility, and critics are concerned that could keep people addicted to opioids from getting addiction treatment.

Medicaid has been around since 1965 as an amendment to the Social Security Act. It's a government insurance program that provides medical coverage to people with low incomes or disabilities. It's funded by the states and the federal government.

Right now, more than 68 million Americans are using Medicaid, and millions of them were enrolled after Obamacare expanded the program to low-income adults. And according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, over $7 billion was spent in 2014 to help people with substance abuse problems.

Governors in the states pushing for the work requirement say the measure would exempt folks with drug addictions, but right now those details are murky at best. Critics are worried a rule like this would worsen the opioid crisis because those struggling with addiction wouldn't be able to afford treatment. 

Adding work requirements to access social services has long been a popular idea for folks who want to reduce government size and spending.

But opponents point out people with addictions have trouble getting and staying hired for a number of reasons, including failed drug tests and possible criminal records.

Possible exemptions remain unclear so far. For example, Kentucky includes work exemptions for the "medically frail," which would include people with drug addictions as long as they met other criteria. But those criteria haven't been fleshed out yet.

Despite that, the Trump administration is expected to sign off on those waivers at some point.