Kentucky imposes mandatory work requirements for Medicaid recipients

Prevent Cancer Foundation® issues statement on Medicaid work requirements

January 19, 2018

Contact: Lisa Berry

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — After the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidance allowing states to restructure their benefit designs and eligibility requirements, Kentucky became the first state to receive approval to impose work requirements for its Medicaid beneficiaries. This departure from previous policy may signal large shifts for state-based programs across the country. 

CMS said that these requirements would only apply to “able-bodied” individuals, but states can define what they classify as “work.” Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) says beneficiaries must complete 80 hours per month of “community engagement” to meet eligibility requirements, which could include activities such as work, education, community service or job training.

Bevin said beneficiaries have a “moral responsibility” to work for their benefits, but outlined exemptions for “medically frail” individuals, including “people with cancer, blood-clotting disorders, or alcohol or substance abuse disorders.”

Even with these exemptions, there are concerns that work requirements may impede access to the Medicaid program, placing many individuals at risk of losing coverage for screenings and early detection services.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® believes everyone should have access to preventive care. In requiring beneficiaries to meet a work requirement, the Kentucky guidelines ignore extenuating circumstances that may prevent someone from maintaining a consistent work schedule now required for eligibility. Many Medicaid beneficiaries also require assistance from caregivers or guardians for transportation, which decreases their productivity and participation in the workforce.

Even with exemptions for “medically frail” individuals, the new eligibility requirements in Kentucky set a dangerous precedent for other states, who can define separate criteria for beneficiaries that may or may not include the same protections or exemptions for cancer patients and others with medical challenges.  

Work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries will be another barrier to access for the screening and early detection services that save lives and resources. The Foundation implores both CMS and state officials to consider the screening needs of its Medicaid beneficiaries to Stop Cancer Before It Starts!®


About The Prevent Cancer Foundation®

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is one of the nation’s leading voluntary health organizations and the only U.S. nonprofit focused solely on cancer prevention and early detection.  Founded in 1985, it has catapulted cancer prevention to prominence and fulfills its mission through research, education, outreach and advocacy across the country.

For more information, please visit

Sign up to get the latest about cancer prevention and early detection directly in your inbox.