Editorial: DeWine right to challenge White House

Employers all over America are looking for workers. Ironically, at the same time, many residents say they cannot find work.

So why, then, would the Biden administration think it’s a good idea to attempt to put the kibosh to a plan that would require Ohioans to make an honest effort to seek and find work before or while drawing state-funded health insurance benefits known as Medicaid?

The Biden Administration revoked Ohio’s work requirements last month following the 2019 approval by the Trump administration. Members of the Ohio Legislature passed a bill in 2017 requiring the state to establish work requirements for the Medicaid expansion population.

Despite Biden’s action, Gov. Mike DeWine isn’t giving up on the idea that at least some Medicaid recipients should have to work to keep their health coverage.

We agree with his position.

Here is what DeWine had to say about the president’s move:

“Removing a provision that says a healthy, able-bodied individual should be working, looking for work, participating in job training or participating in a recovery program in order to receive free taxpayer-funded health care is contrary to Ohioans’ values. … Eliminating reasonable requirements discourages people from becoming self-sufficient and only reinforces government dependency. Ohio’s program would offer assistance when Ohioans need it, while providing opportunities for future success.”

According to published reports, the Biden administration regards work requirements as unhelpful to a policy of trying to make sure as many Americans as possible have health insurance coverage.

“Medicaid is a lifeline for millions of people in our country, and eligible Americans should be able to access and retain this benefit without unnecessary or undue burden. The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the risks of significant coverage loss and harm to individuals associated with tying Medicaid eligibility to employment,” a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last month told the Sandusky Register newspaper.

Ohio reported 3,240,638 people enrolled in Medicaid in July, with figures trending upward month by month from 2,972,015 in July 2020.

“Medicaid enrollment has been trending upward throughout the COVID pandemic,” said Lisa Lawless, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

“Enrollments grow when the economy struggles, which has been the case since the start of the pandemic,” Lawless said. “Additionally, to qualify for enhanced federal funding, Medicaid agencies cannot disenroll individuals during the federally declared public health emergency, nor can we change the eligibility criteria or benefits to vary from what the state offered prior to the public health emergency.”

Wednesday, DeWine requested that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost begin necessary legal action to reverse the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw Ohio’s Medicaid work requirements. In response, Yost’s Office filed a notice of appeal with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

DeWine and Yost are right to take this position, based both on the merits of this case and the principle. That is, Ohio — and all states — should be free to govern on issues involving state-run programs without meddling from the federal government.

While DeWine’s approach may seem uncompassionate to some, it should be noted that the state has declined to impose its work requirement during the pandemic.

At the end of the day, state programs should be run by the state without interference from the federal government.

Asking unemployed workers to make serious efforts to find or seek employment or to seek job training should not be too much to ask. Assistance programs are intended to serve as a safety net for those who need it temporarily, while they work to get back on their feet. Seriously seeking employment during that time should not be too much to ask.

Youngstown Vindicator