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A signature Republican proposal is the idea of adding work requirements to social programs like SNAP (food stamps) and even, some propose, to Medicaid. What would this actually mean?

In April, president Trump signed an executive order imposing work requirements on aid programs, the details of which are still being developed by state governments and federal agencies. A new report from The Hamilton Project looks at the numbers to determine who exactly would be impacted, and how, if the proposal of Republicans in the House of Representatives to vastly expand work requirements were to be imposed.

In 2017, 2.2 million people who reported SNAP benefit receipt were exposed to work requirements during the year based on their demographic characteristics. Under the House proposal and based on 2017 numbers, this would more than double with 2.5 million adults aged 18–49 with dependent children aged 6–17 and 1.6 million adults aged 50–59 who would be exposed to work requirements nationally for the first time.

The report also finds that if the same set of requirements were expanded to cover Medicaid as well, as some Republicans wish, “a nationwide expansion of these rules would target 22.4 million Americans for a possible loss of Medicaid coverage.”

Crucially, the report finds that the blunt instrument of work requirements is not really a very good tool for doing what Republicans want it to do, which is to force lazy no-good bums to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Because most of the food stamp and Medicaid recipients who aren’t working have very good reasons:

A large number of SNAP and Medicaid participants who would face new work requirements cycle in and out of the labor force and would thus lose benefits at certain times. Among those who are in the labor force, spells of unemployment are either due to job-related concerns or health issues. Very few reported that they were not working due to lack of interest. Among those out of the labor force for the entire two-year period, health concerns are the overriding reason for not working, even after removing those who receive disability benefits from the sample. The older portion of the population newly exposed to work requirements is more likely to be out of the labor force for extended periods of time. Among this group, again, health reasons are the overriding factor in not working.

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“Make sick old people work or die,” is essentially the Republican platform. The family values party.

[The full report]