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Invited Commentary
November 2018

Medicaid Work Requirements—English Poor Law Revisited

Author Affiliations
  • 1NYC Health + Hospitals, New York, New York
  • 2Deputy Editor, JAMA Internal Medicine
JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(11):1555-1557. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4193

In 1563, Elizabethan English law distinguished between the deserving poor, or those who wanted to work but could not because of infirmity or lack of available work, and the idle poor, or those who were judged able to work but would not.1 While the deserving poor were to be aided, the idle poor were to be punished. Four hundred fifty years later, the United States is still debating which of the poor are deserving and what they are deserving of.

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