Federal Judge Strikes Down Medicaid Work Rules in Kentucky, Arkansas

Federal Judge Strikes Down Medicaid Work Rules in Kentucky, Arkansas

Efforts by the Trump administration and Republican-governed states to weed out Medicaid beneficiaries via work requirements hit a major legal hurdle today as a DC District Court judge struck down waivers granted to Arkansas and Kentucky for this goal.

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The requirements generally apply to people who qualified for Medicaid under the expanded program that was part of the Affordable Care Act, enacted during the Obama administration. He said on Twitter last night that anyone encountering problems in reapplying for Medicaid coverage can call Legal Aid of Arkansas at 800-967-9224. In the opinion regarding Arkansas, where more than 16,000 people lost Medicaid in 2018, Boasberg wrote, "the disruption of Arkansas's administration of its Medicaid program must be balanced against the harms that Plaintiffs and persons like them will experience if the program remains in effect".

"As long as they hold on to hope that some judge will rule in their favor, states will continue to pursue work requirements", Wilson said.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Kentucky's Section 1115 Medicaid waiver, known as Kentucky HEALTH (Helping to Engage and Achieve Long-Term Health), back in November.

CMS is still reviewing work requirement projects for a number of states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. They mean that low-income people in Kentucky and Arkansas will maintain their health insurance coverage - coverage that enables them to live, work, and participate as fully as they can in their communities.

Arkansas officials have not said what they plan to do.

Bevin, who is running for re-election this fall, had threatened to end the Medicaid expansion during his last campaign but backed off that pledge after his victory. "The Secretary could then always approve those waivers, no matter how few people remain on Medicaid thereafter because any waiver would be coverage-promoting, compared to a world in which the state offers no coverage at all". That state's work requirement waiver was originally struck down by Boasberg in July 2018. This is the second time Boasberg has blocked Kentucky's work requirement waiver, which has not yet been implemented.

The future is less certain in MI, where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month said she would ask the Republican-led Legislature to change newly enacted work or job-related requirements to qualify for Michigan's Medicaid expansion program.

Also, the consumer groups once again sued to block the start of work requirements in Kentucky, which had to halt implementation last June after the same judge voided the federal government's approval.

"Arkansas might use the time while the program is paused to consider whether and how to better educate persons about the requirements and how to satisfy them", he wrote.

In Arkansas, thousands of adults failed to tell the state their work status for three consecutive months, which led to disenrollment.

The ruling does not affect Arizona's planning to implement work requirements, said Heidi Capriotti, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state Medicaid agency.

Eight states have had their requests approved, though not all have put their programs in place, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

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