Last week, we released a first-of-its-kind study on Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirement. We’ve published many similar studies over the years, looking at what happens when folks leave food stamps and cash welfare after work requirements. But this one was different for FGA, and for me personally.
We—nor anyone else—has ever studied Medicaid in this way, for one simple reason: Medicaid work requirements never existed before Arkansas put them in place.
But it’s not just the uniqueness or the feeling of home-state pride that makes this study so special for me. I think it’s the fact that, for the first time, I got an up-close look at real Arkansans—my neighbors—who are better off because of this policy.
One of them is from my hometown of Conway. His name is Chris.
Chris walked into a workforce services office a few months ago unemployed and without any direction. He came in specifically because he wanted to get help reporting for the work requirement. And then he literally walked out of the office, that same day, with a job.
We’ll never know what would have happened to Chris had the work requirement not been put into place. Would he have languished on welfare, without work, for years? Would he have ever found his way back into the workforce? Would he have ended up homeless and hopeless?
Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder. Chris is employed, on the path to a better life, because our state did something so bold, yet so simple—require working-age adults without disabilities to work or search for work in order to keep their taxpayer-funded benefits.
I’ve researched, written about, and spoken publicly about welfare reform for years in close to two dozen states. I’ve seen time and time again the data that shows Americans are better off after they leave welfare and get back to work. It’s the most commonsense concept in the world. After all, you can’t beat poverty without work.
But with this study, it all came to life in a different way. This reform now has real faces, right here in my community. Real people who are really being helped. And that’s a story worth telling.