January 11, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) released the following statement in response to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) letter allowing states to tie Medicaid eligibility to work status.

“Millions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders rely on Medicaid as their only form of health coverage,” said Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF president and CEO. “Adding more barriers to coverage harms minority communities across the country. We stand alongside health advocates in calling on CMS to revoke this unwise and potentially unlawful decision and to instead promote policies that support health equity.”

The letter from CMS to State Medicaid Directors allows states to set Medicaid eligibility based on work status or “community engagement.” Medicaid work requirements will specifically hurt people of color, who make up a disproportionate percentage of the long-term unemployed and therefore will struggle to meet the standards. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPI) have the second-highest rate of long-term unemployment as a share of the unemployed, after African Americans at 30.2 percent. For example, Vietnamese and Filipino communities will be particularly harmed, with rates respectively at 41.5 percent and 34.2 percent. Previous research has indicated that being foreign born, racial bias, and residing in states with high long-term unemployment are factors that contribute to the high rate of long-term unemployment for AAs and NHPIs. Almost 17 percent of AAs and 34 percent of NHPIs rely on Medicaid for health coverage.