Federal Government Exempts Arizona Tribes from Medicaid Work Requirements

Jan 22, 2019

Arizona has become the first state in the U.S. allowed to exempt tribal members from Medicaid work requirements. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, Native American leaders say the new Trump administration rules would have threatened tribal sovereignty.

Navajo Pres. Jonathan Nez
Credit Navajo Times/Donovan Quintero

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services announced last week that 120,000 Arizonans who receive benefits will have to prove they’re working or participating in community service or education.

But federal health officials also approved the state’s request to exempt tribal members from the requirements.

Navajo Nation officials had pushed for an exemption. President Jonathan Nez says work requirements would harm Navajo families, and violate the federal trust responsibility to provide healthcare for Native Americans. Nez hopes the decision will provide a model for other tribes seeking similar exemptions.

Arizona’s Medicaid work requirements will likely go into effect in January of next year.