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Vast majority of Illinois Medicaid expansion recipients aren’t working

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Illinois News Network) — Seven of 10 able-bodied recipients of taxpayer-funded healthcare in Illinois say they don’t have jobs.

A new report from the Foundation for Government Accountability, a nonpartisan public policy organization, said work requirements similar to those placed on other federal aid programs should be implemented for Medicaid recipients.

As of February, more than 400,000 out of the 580,00 Medicaid expansion enrollees in Illinois have no earned income, according to data received from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

“They’re taking dollars out of those state budgets that could go to people who don’t have the opportunity to work,” said Victoria Eardley, a research fellow with FGA and co-author of the study. “And now we find out that they’re not working.”

The report said light work requirements, 20 hours of work or training per week for able-bodied, childless adults, resulted in adults returning to the workforce “in more than 600 different industries and their incomes more than doubled, on average.”

Since the enactment of Medicaid expansion in 2012 under Obamacare, 31 states, including Illinois, have signed up more than 12 million new recipients to Medicaid’s rolls. One in four, or 3.2 million, Illinoisans are on Medicaid, according to state figures.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, reacted to these figures.

“We have more jobs in America today than people seeking jobs,” he said. “Is it not absolutely the right thing to do to get people off the sidelines and into the labor force?”

Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas and New Hampshire have all approved a form of work requirement for their able-bodied Medicaid enrollees. Arkansas is the only state to officially implement the requirement, having done so on June 1. Several other states, the report found, have submitted proposals for Medicaid work requirements to the Trump administration.

Medicaid was created in 1965 to help low-income Americans pay for health care benefits.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office successfully secured a waiver earlier this year for work requirements for Illinois recipients for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, stating that unemployment was too high to implement the requirement. Illinois’ unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent in May.

 While Illinois has a large portion of its population on Medicaid, supporters of the program say that the state spends less per patient than nearly any other.