The impact of Alabama’s proposed Medicaid work requirement on low-income families with children

Alabama is seeking federal permission through a Section 1115 Medicaid demonstration waiver to require parents and caregivers who rely on Medicaid to work 20 to 35 hours a week, prove they are looking or training for a job or do community service before receiving Medicaid. This proposal targets the very poorest and most vulnerable families with children in Alabama – many of whom will lose their health coverage, according to a new report by Arise Citizens’ Policy Project and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

Alabama’s proposed work requirement and subsequent coverage losses would disproportionately affect mothers, African Americans and families living in rural communities. Many of these women will likely become uninsured, as employer-sponsored insurance for low-wage workers is sparse.

The proposal creates a Catch-22: Any parent working the 20 to 35 hours required would make too much money to qualify for Medicaid — but likely not enough to afford private insurance. An analysis of the state’s estimates finds that 8,700 parents would be removed from Medicaid in the first year alone. When their parents lose health coverage, children suffer. The families face increased debt, and children are less likely to visit the doctor regularly and more likely to become uninsured themselves. Children in these families are already disproportionately uninsured.