Very few unemployed Medicaid enrollees reported not looking for work or not wanting a job, the study found.
But people with behavioral health problems were more likely than those without health conditions to report they were too disabled to work, and they were also less likely to be looking for work.
The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how specific health problems might influence how many hours Medicaid enrollees worked.
“Chronic health issues can limit an individual’s employment options due to physical or mental barriers to performing certain tasks,” says Ann Sheehy, MD, MS, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“Individuals with chronic health problems may also need to attend frequent medical appointments,” Dr. Sheehy says by email.
Health issues can make it harder for people to find jobs and keep them, says Olena Mazurenko, MD, PhD, MS, of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“We need to conduct more detailed inquiries to examine the underlying reasons for why Medicaid enrollees with chronic conditions are unable to work,” Dr. Mazurenko, who wasn’t involved in the study, says by email.
Work requirements may be unreasonable for a significant percentage of Medicaid enrollees, many of whom suffer from debilitating health conditions, says Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, MBA, chief scientific officer at Clover Health and an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
“States need to create and implement standardized criteria to identify these individuals and exclude them from work requirements,” Dr. Dharmarajan says by email. “Not doing so may result in loss of Medicaid coverage, compromised health care access, and unnecessary suffering.
- Wen H, Saloner B, Cummings JR. Behavioral and other chronic conditions among adult medicaid enrollees: Implications for work requirements. Health Aff (Millwood). 2019 Apr;38(4):660–667.