Work Requirements Wouldn’t Dent Federal Budget

Republicans' proposal to add work requirements to Medicaid has become a sticking point in debt ceiling negotiations

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 25, 2023 in Washington, DC.

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For politicians looking to save taxpayers money, adding work requirements to Medicaid and other social programs would do next to nothing.

That’s according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, which shows that adding work requirements to Medicaid and expanding existing ones for food stamps, and other welfare programs—as Republican lawmakers have demanded of President Joe Biden in exchange for raising the national debt limit—would save a miniscule amount of money compared to the overall budget.

Work requirements are a sticking point in negotiations between Biden and Republican leaders who are seeking to raise or suspend the national debt ceiling in order to prevent the government from running out of cash to pay its bills. Republicans have demanded cuts to nonmilitary spending and that work requirements be added or expanded for social benefit programs. Biden has pushed back against the idea.

“I’m not going to accept any work requirements that’s (sic) going to impact on medical health needs of people,” Biden said last week in response to reporters’ questions following a speech, adding that he wouldn’t add “anything of consequence” beyond existing requirements.

In April, the CBO, a nonpartisan research arm of the government, analyzed the Limit, Save, Grow Act, the Republican spending-cut bill passed by Congress in April.

CBO found that together, adding work requirements to Medicaid and expanding existing requirements for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (welfare) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) would save $120 billion between 2023 and 2033. The CBO also projected overall federal spending during the same period to be more than $86.4 trillion. 

As for the stated goal of getting social benefit recipients to work, a previous CBO analysis from 2022 found that adding work requirements to Medicaid (the federal program to provide health insurance for low-income people) would probably cause few people to get jobs. Expanding work requirements for TANF would have a substantial impact the first year and then fade, while expanding SNAP work requirements would have a smaller effect.

Article Sources
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  1. Congressional Budget Office. "Letter to Chairman Jodey Arrington."

  2. White House. "Remarks by President Biden on Preventing a First-Ever Government Default."

  3. Ways and Means Committee. "House Republicans Pass Limit, Save, Grow Act to Rein in Wasteful Spending and Grow the Economy."

  4. Congressional Budget Office. "Work Requirements and Work Supports for Recipients of Means-Tested Benefits."

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