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BILOXI, Miss. (AP) _ An estimated 20,000 poor parents in Mississippi will lose health coverage over five years under a proposal requiring Medicaid recipients work for their benefits, researchers at Georgetown University reported.

Mississippi has asked President Donald Trump’s administration for permission to require at least 20 hours per week of work, or approved work activities, to gain and retain coverage under the federal-state program that helps pay for health care for the disabled and others, The Sun Herald reported .

The proposal excludes people with mental illness and primary caregivers for people who can’t care for themselves, among others, news outlets reported Tuesday.

The state’s income cutoff to qualify for Medicaid coverage is one of the nation’s lowest at 27 percent of the federal poverty level_ about $5,610 annually for a family of three, the report said.

However, those working 20 hours a week at minimum wage, or $7,540 a year, wouldn’t be eligible for Medicaid. They would be left with a “coverage gap,” where they earn too much for public assistance but not enough to afford private coverage.

Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant voiced support for the proposal in his State of the State address in January.

“This is not as some would have you believe, a punitive action aimed at recipients,” Bryant said. “It will actually help this population reap the rewards of a good job, and one day receive health care coverage from their employer, not the state or federal government.”

Several groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund and the American Academy of Pediatrics have opposed the proposal. Other groups say it’ll disproportionally impact low-income people in rural areas and small towns where 54 percent of state residents live.

African-Americans, who account for more than 70 percent of Mississippi parents receiving Medicaid, would be hit particularly hard.

In its application, the Division of Medicaid said it believes more than 56,000 people would be eligible for workforce training activities, specifically parents and caretakers of Medicaid recipients in low-income families and those receiving transitional medical assistance, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported. The division says the goal is to move more families out of poverty and into the workforce.

“The Mississippi Division of Medicaid’s workforce training initiative is intended to provide additional opportunities for adult Medicaid recipients who are able to work but unable to obtain employment,” Mississippi Medicaid director Drew Snyder said. “The recent report produced by several Obamacare advocacy groups is factually inaccurate and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the agency’s proposal.”


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