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Major Change to Medicaid Threatens Healthcare Access for Low-Income Black Women

WASHINGTON, DC (January 11, 2018) Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released guidance that would, for the first-time ever, allow states to place work requirements on current and future Medicaid enrollees. As a result, states could require Medicaid recipients to be employed and/or engage in community service as a condition for receiving their health care benefits. According to the administration, this change “is about helping those individuals rise out of poverty.”

While many proposed changes to Medicaid over the years, such as the work requirements, lean heavily on inaccurate stereotypes of the individuals who make use of these programs, it is important to highlight its benefit to Black women and their families:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 Black women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid;
  • Medicaid is a critical source of reproductive health services for low-income Black women, covering half of all births in the United States and three quarters of all publicly funded family planning services;
  • Most Medicaid enrollees who can work do work. In families that do rely on Medicaid benefits, at least one adult in the family works. Non-working adults are typically not working for valid reasons such as illness, disability, family caregiving responsibilities, and educational pursuits;
  • Work requirements would significantly cut Medicaid enrollment and remove health care access for a population already suffering from a higher rate of maternal mortality and other pregnancy complications;
  • On average, Black women make just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men, making it even more difficult to pay out-of-pocket for health care services as well as other life necessities; and
  • Without Medicaid coverage, low-income Black women will lose access to preventive services, reproductive health services like maternity care, health education, counseling, and many other life-saving health care services.

“Imposing work requirements as a condition to receive Medicaid benefits for low-income individuals underscores a pervasive belief in our society that poverty is a character flaw,” said Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative. “ Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a clear disconnect between this false and discriminatory narrative and the actual reality that Black women in poverty face every day. The truth is that over 70% of Black women on Medicaid already work hard everyday to support their families but, due to systemic inequalities, they earn less and face unfair barriers to health care. These jobs simply do not pay enough for women to afford health insurance.  We are urging policymakers to stop placing restrictions and limits on federal safety net programs and instead focus on ensuring that these programs are easily accessible to the hard-working people that need them the most. This is how we might stop punishing the poor and end poverty in the US.”



Media Contact:

Antonice Jackson
BWHI Communications Manager