House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is surrounded by reporters

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the floor on April 19, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

GOP Debt Limit Bill Could Put Over 10 Million at Risk of Losing Medicaid: Analysis

"This agenda would narrow opportunity, deepen inequality, and increase hardship," said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The House GOP leadership's newly released debt ceiling legislation would have potentially devastating impacts on Medicaid recipients across the United States, putting more than 10 million low-income people at risk of losing health coverage under the program.

That's according to a detailed analysis of the bill published Monday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which noted that the Republican legislation "would take Medicaid health coverage away from adults aged 19-55 who do not have children in their household and who aren't able to document that they are working or to secure an exemption."

"This builds on a failed policy that Arkansas temporarily applied, which resulted in large numbers of people losing coverage and no impact [on] employment outcomes," CBPP warned. "Like the Arkansas policy, the McCarthy proposal would require monthly verification of employment and require many people to navigate a complicated system and provide proof that may be difficult to get to secure an exemption."

"More than 10 million people in Medicaid expansion states would be at significant risk of having their health coverage taken away because they would be subject to the new requirements and could not be excluded automatically based on existing data readily available to states," the think tank continued. "When people lose Medicaid, they lose access to preventive and acute care as well as medications and other therapies for managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes or depression. Losing access to healthcare can lead to serious health consequences and financial strain, making it harder for people to engage in the workforce successfully."

The bill, touted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a floor speech last week, would also impose even more strict work requirements on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients—the majority of whom already work.

"Under the bill, people unable to document employment could lose both SNAP and Medicaid," CBPP observed.

CBPP has previously estimated that SNAP work requirements floated by Republicans would strip federal food benefits from more than 10 million people, including millions of children.

A fact sheet that the Republican leadership released alongside the new legislation estimates that the proposed work requirements would save the federal government up to $120 billion over the next decade.

But the document doesn't mention that the bill's repeal of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding would cost the federal government around $114 billion in revenue over 10 years, almost completely offsetting any potential savings from the punitive work requirements.

The bill would also slash federal spending across the board by reverting it to fiscal year 2022 levels and capping spending growth at 1% per year for the next decade. In exchange, the measure would only lift the debt ceiling through March 31, 2024 at the latest.

"Cutting a broad swath of public services—from schools, childcare, and public health to environmental protection and college aid—and making it harder for people to afford the basics while permitting more tax cheating and cutting taxes for the wealthy is failed trickle-down economics at its worst," CBPP argued. "This agenda would narrow opportunity, deepen inequality, and increase hardship."

Growing warnings about the ramifications of the GOP-backed work requirements come as some far-right House Republicans—led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)—are complaining that the new rules in the Republican bill aren't strict enough, potentially complicating party leaders' efforts to hold a vote this week.

NBC Newsreported Monday that Gaetz has "demanded 'more rigor' on work requirements for recipients of Medicaid and other safety net programs before he'll get on board."

"Specifically, he wants recipients to work 30 hours per week, up from 20 hours in the McCarthy plan," the outlet noted.

Congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden have voiced opposition to the Republican bill, characterizing it as an attack on the vulnerable and a gift to rich tax dodgers.

"Most Medicaid recipients already work," Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) tweeted Sunday. "The GOP's proposed work requirements are unnecessary and cruel, and would take away health insurance from millions of people."

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