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How Medicaid work requirements could exacerbate the opioid epidemic.

Andrews CM, Humphreys K, Grogan CM. How Medicaid work requirements could exacerbate the opioid epidemic. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse. 2019 Dec 4; 46(1):1-3.

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In 2018, the Trump Administration took the unprecedented step of allowing states to impose work requirements as a condition of Medicaid eligibility. States can apply for a demonstration waiver to require Medicaid beneficiaries aged 19-64 who do not meet exemption criteria (e.g., disability, caring for a sick relative) to participate in "community engagement" activities, which include employment, volunteering, and enrollment in a qualifying education or job training program. Debate thus far has focused primarily around the important issue of whether such requirements are legal. Less attention has focused on another serious concern - namely, that work requirements could exacerbate the nation's most urgent public health crisis: the opioid epidemic. Many enrollees with opioid use disorder who are unable to meet states' community engagement criteria will not qualify for an exemption from the work requirements, and risk being dropped from Medicaid enrollment. Refusing health insurance to individuals who are unable to meet work requirements could result in significant losses in coverage among a highly vulnerable population. Implementing new barriers to Medicaid coverage will hinder the effectiveness of massive state and federal investments in improving access to evidence-based addiction treatment.

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