As a Community Mental Health Center, my first priority is to the individuals we serve by restoring and preserving their health.  I’m concerned, for several reasons, that Minnesota lawmakers are considering the misguided idea of adding work requirements to Medical Assistance (MA), our state’s Medicaid program.

     The healthier the individuals we serve are, the easier it is for them to work. This includes individuals with MA, most of whom already have jobs. Putting their coverage at risk won’t make them healthier, but it will make it harder for them to stay employed –ironic considering the goals of the proposal.

     Another reason I’m concerned about work requirements: individuals who miss routine exams because they’ve lost their coverage are more likely to have treatable conditions go undetected or neglected. I can’t describe how tragic it is to see an individual come in so ill with irreversible impact, knowing that a few months could have made all the difference. We’re still going to spend money on their care it will just be absorbed by other higher costs of care.  Taking away their coverage will have brutal and avoidable consequences to the individual and to the healthcare system.

     I have also never had anyone say that more government paperwork in a safety net provider like a Community Mental Health Center sounded like a good idea. Adding more bureaucracy and administrative costs to health care will waste time and money that could be spent saving and improving lives.

     MA work requirements won’t save nearly enough money to make up for the pain they will cause, and good people will suffer. Let’s focus on making real improvements to our health care system, not this.

Shauna Reitmeier, MSW
Chief Executive Officer
Northwestern Mental Health Center