Chronic Disease, Functional Limitations, and Workforce Participation Among Medicaid Enrollees Over 50: The Potential Impact of Medicaid Work Requirements Post-COVID-19

J Aging Soc Policy. 2023 Jul 18:1-19. doi: 10.1080/08959420.2023.2226291. Online ahead of print.


From 2018-2020, 19 states enacted Medicaid work requirements as a strategy for reducing program enrollment and overall cost. While these requirements were later rescinded, strategies to reduce Medicaid costs are likely to reemerge as states attempt to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we evaluated the impact of Medicaid work requirements on adults aged > 50, a group that likely faces significant age-related chronic disease burden. Using 2016 Health and Retirement Study data, we evaluated the chronic disease burden of adult Medicaid beneficiaries aged 51-64 years (n = 1460) who would be at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage due to work requirements. We compared Medicaid beneficiaries working <20 hours per week (i.e. those at risk of coverage loss) to those working at least 20 hours per week on eight chronic health conditions, adjusting for demographic characteristics. Among those with chronic health conditions, we also evaluated differences in disease severity based on hours worked per week. Among those working fewer than 20 hours per week, odds of disease were greater for seven of eight chronic conditions, including history of stroke (OR: 5.66; 95% CI: 2.22-14.43) and lung disease (OR: 3.79; 95% CI: 2.10-6.85). Further, those with greater disease severity were likely to work fewer hours. Thus, the introduction of Medicaid work requirements would likely result in coverage loss and lower access to care among older Medicaid beneficiaries with multiple chronic health conditions.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Functional limitations; Medicaid; Older adults; State health policies.