Chris Denson, director of policy and research at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a right-leaning think tank in Atlanta, pointed out in an email that the 50,000 people potentially being added to the Medicaid rolls “would not be the same 50,000 recipients at any given time. Whereas traditional Medicaid discourages recipients from earning more money to avoid losing eligibility and thus their coverage, the [demonstration project] proposal is designed to create a more seamless transition from Medicaid eligibility for many workers.” For instance, if the enrollee has a job with a health insurance benefit, the Pathways program would pay the premium for the employer plan if it was financially advantageous for Pathways.
In addition, “in the event their income rises above the eligibility threshold, they could keep their coverage and not have to move from one plan to another,” he said.
Arkansas was the first state to implement a Medicaid work requirement, but that program — later halted by a federal judge — resulted in about 18,000 beneficiaries losing their Medicaid coverage, often because they couldn’t comply with the reporting requirements. In addition, “many faced negative consequences such as medical debt,” said Hempstead. “It did not improve employment.”
Denson, on the other hand, noted that the Georgia program differs from the Arkansas program because it “imposed this [work] requirement on potential recipients rather than existing Medicaid beneficiaries … Because Georgia is expanding healthcare coverage for previously uncovered applicants, there is no reduction in the legally mandated Medicaid coverage for current enrollees.”