News & Commentary

February 4, 2018

On Friday, Indiana became the second state to get approval from the Trump administration to impose a work requirement on Medicaid beneficiaries. The Wall Street Journal reports that the approval is “the first major health-policy move since Alex Azar was sworn in Monday as Health and Human Services secretary,” and “suggests continued support under his leadership for work-related mandates in Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the low-income and disabled.” Kentucky already received approval for a work requirement, and reportedly a dozen other states are in talks with HHS about work-related mandates.

Looking at Kentucky, Indiana, and other states’ proposed work-related requirements for Medicaid, the New York Times asks: “Who’s Able-Bodied Anyway?” Reporters Emily Badger and Margot Sanger-Katz explore how this term influences who we think are the deserving versus undeserving poor, and the effects on eligibility requirements for government programs.

“The basic point is that the physical distinction always implies a moral one, and that’s why politicians use it,” said Steve Hindle, the interim president and director of research at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. He finds it not surprising but “profoundly sad” that so few politicians think about the lineage of the term.

From 1965 to 2010 there was a clear sequence where ‘able-bodiedness’ and ‘worthy poor’ were written out of statutes – culminating with the Affordable Care Act – only to see such distinctions reintroduced in the last year by Congressional Republicans, and Republican-controlled states like Kentucky and Indiana.

Did you know that every U.S. Senator’s office is responsible for creating its own family leave policy (as long as it complies with the FMLA)? U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) will be the first Senator to give birth while in office, and she will be taking twelve weeks of paid family leave.

The New York Times looks at how the Trump administration’s immigration policies may hurt the elderly. “One in four of the direct-care workers in the nation’s nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care agencies are foreign-born, according to an analysis of census data by P.H.I., the New York research organization.” There is a growing workforce shortage in direct care which is partially caused by the growing economy and severe demographic shifts, but could be further exasperated if large numbers of immigrants are deported or unable to work for fear of drawing unwanted attention.

Elkhart County, Ind. voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, but when presented with a proposal to build a $100 million immigration-detention facility in the county, workers and business-owners vocally opposed the plan. Local business leader Jason Lippert, “who said he supports Mr. Trump’s ‘business-friendly policies,’ said he was concerned about holding on to workers. About 3,000 of his 10,000 employees are Latino, and Goshen—one of the county’s principal cities—is 30% Latino.”

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.