Reforming a Failed Welfare System
By Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-Dauphin/Lancaster and Rep. Mindy Fee (R-Lancaster)
Work requirements have put thousands of Americans on a pathway to independence.
Despite that fact, those who oppose reforming our failing Medicaid system are literally telling taxpayers to continue funding a system that is not helping those who need help the most.
But, asking those who can work to help pay for their healthcare to do so, as House Bill 2138 does, protects scarce resources for Pennsylvania's most vulnerable citizens who are disadvantaged under the poorly-designed Medicaid expansion funding scheme. When people who don’t need public assistance take it anyway, it is essentially stealing from those who truly do need it.
When Kansas and Maine strengthened work requirements in their Food Stamp program, those leaving the program saw their incomes more than double and enrollment dropped by 75 and 80 percent, respectively.
In Pennsylvania, the reinstatement of work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) resulted in 30,000 able-bodied adults choosing to leave the program rather than adhere to the work requirement.
Enabling able-bodied welfare recipients to be more independent is not a new concept. President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law on August 22, 1996.
The dire predictions of welfare reform’s critics did not come to pass after the 1996 law. Poverty rates actually declined in the years immediately following the passage of welfare reform.
The bipartisan vote to pass House Bill 2138 demonstrates that Democrats and Republicans agree the system as it stands today needs reform and we stand behind our votes.
In fact, former President Bill Clinton set into motion this concept at the federal level and Pennsylvania’s efforts can trace its roots back to the Thornburgh Administration of the 1980s.
When Clinton established a successful welfare-to-work program during his administration, states experienced significant reductions in their welfare rolls because individuals were earning more and didn’t depend on government to meet their needs.
For instance, employment of single mothers without a high-school diploma increased by two-thirds, and employment of single mothers between 18 and 24 approximately doubled.
And the legislation does not automatically kick folks off Medicaid. Under the bill, able-bodied Medicaid recipients would have to work 20 hours a week or complete 12 job training-related activities a month.
We believe these requirements are more than fair for the benefits individuals receive at no personal cost. These requirements are very similar to those imposed on residents who receive benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance programs.
The bill also outlines numerous exemptions to ensure our most vulnerable residents aren’t negatively impacted by this legislation. The exemptions include, but are not limited to seniors, physically disabled, pregnant women and more.
House Bill 2138 is good public policy and has protections in place to ensure the most vulnerable in our society are not left behind.