Photo: AP

Now that the Trump administration has given states the green light to impose cruel and unnecessary work requirements on Medicaid recipients, some states are already scrambling to impose them on their poorest citizens. But some states are attempting to customize their plans to shield their rural white populations from work requirements. I wonder...... why?

Talking Point Memo reports that Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan—all Republican-controlled states—are including waivers in their Medicaid proposals that would make those living in the counties with the highest level of unemployment exempt from work requirements. This disproportionately impacts poor rural whites, but leaves poor black people living in counties with large urban centers and wealthy suburbs in the dust. Anyone who doesn’t meet the stipulations of the work requirement will risk losing their healthcare.

This might actually be a civil rights violation: It’s illegal for federal assistance programs to discriminate or have a disproportionately negative impact on a specific group.

From TPM:

The waiver in Kentucky, the first state to win federal approval for a Medicaid work requirement, will have the effect of exempting eight southeastern counties where the percentage of white residents is over 90 percent. The work requirements will be imposed first in Northern Kentucky, which includes Jefferson, the county with the highest concentration of black residents in the state.

...

People who live in [Michigan] counties with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent would be exempt, and those counties are overwhelmingly white, rural, and vote Republican. But low-income residents of color in Detroit and Flint, where the joblessness and poverty are extremely high, would not receive an exemption.

...

Ohio’s Medicaid work requirement proposal — recently submitted for federal approval — is of a similar design, and would have the same disparities between urban residents of color in Cleveland and Columbus and rural white residents in the rest of the state.

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If you’re sensing a pattern that’s because there is one: Poor black people are screwed poor white people benefit. The transparently racist nature of these waivers would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so devastating. How about we just nix this work requirement nonsense all together and pretend none of this ever happened?