Volunteer in exchange for Medicaid benefits?

Big changes could be coming to a Medicaid health insurance plan near you. Medicaid, a health insurance program for low income individuals and families, is one of the cheapest health insurance plans out there.

Simply, Medicaid is a health insurance option for low income families. It is federally funded but state run. To be eligible, you must fit a certain amount of guidelines. Medicaid is not a free pass to health care on demand, however, it does provide health care otherwise unattainable to those who cannot afford it.

Medicaid is one of the only reasons that low income families can afford health care. And some people feel like they should work for it.

A pilot program is hoping to reduce entitlement and get those who receive Medicaid to give back to the community by requiring them to volunteer in the community.

For the pro side: volunteering strengthens our community. Nonprofits thrive and can only survive with volunteers. These volunteer opportunities benefit the community in many ways. And it can build a sense of community for those receiving Medicaid, according to officials who are trying to push the new bill.

And getting involved in the community can help erase- or at least ease- the sense of entitlement everyone is accusing this generation of having. Instead of opening their greedy pockets for hand outs, they can give back in order to receive them.

Volunteering is good, right?

Those opposed to the pilot program are protesting. Loudly.

First, forced volunteering really is not volunteering. I work for a volunteer program. The best volunteers are the ones that want to be there, not because they have to. Those forced to volunteer (mostly school volunteer hours for a class, to look good on a resume) do not last very long, are not reliable and have a hard time putting their hearts in it. They tend to do the minimum and duck out before anything else if asked of them. And if something else more important comes along, the volunteer opportunity is the first thing to go. (Over-generalization? Not in my experience.)

So really, it is an exchange of work. You work (volunteer) and we will pay you (in health insurance). This exchange is making some people really angry. One woman says it puts her in the same class as court ordered community service participants (those who get community service as punishment for a crime instead of jail time). And that is not someone she wants to be associated with just because she is low income.

Another draw back: when would they have time? Imagine this. You work part time so you are not eligible for health insurance through your employer. Your income is still low enough that you could qualify for Medicaid. But in order to get health insurance you must donate your time. If you have kids, that would require hiring a babysitter to volunteer, costing you more money.

Should we require low income families to volunteer for Medicaid? Or how about seniors who receive Medicare? Is there a happy medium?