Federal judge vacates Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky

Federal judge blocks proposed work requirements for Medicaid in KY

The judge's ruling blocked work requirements from going into effect April 1 in Kentucky

KODJAK: So the judge today said that the Department of Health and Human Services and the states, which were Kentucky and Arkansas, didn't consider the impact on people's health care coverage when they put in place these work requirements. It's one reason the Trump administration argued it was important to approve the new rules. Those who oppose such requirements have argued that they are created to reduce the Medicaid-eligible population. Progressives contend that most poor people who can work already do and that access to health care is a precondition for some to hold jobs. In other states like MI and OH, they were incorporated to win GOP support for continuing expansion programs. Requests from seven others are pending.

"I am disappointed in the decision handed down late this afternoon". "We believe, as have numerous past administrations, that states are the laboratories of democracy and we will vigorously support their innovative, state-driven efforts to develop and test reforms that will advance the objectives of the Medicaid program".

Boasberg's ruling holds that states can not use Section 1115 waivers in this manner. He wrote that he "cannot concur" that Medicaid law leaves the HHS secretary "so unconstrained, nor that the states are so armed to refashion the program Congress designed in any way they choose". The desire to connect Medicaid health benefits to work requirements has always been a goal of conservatives, but the language of Boasberg's opinions relays the reasons why advocates for the poor have been predicting this decision; they have insisted that health benefits and work should not be linked.

The GOP leader of the Arkansas Senate said he doesn't believe the ruling jeopardizes the future of Medicaid expansion, which covers more than 200,000 residents. Since the program was enacted in rollouts in June 2018 and January 2019, more than 16,900 individuals lost Medicaid coverage for some period of time for failure to report compliance online each month, Boasberg said.

"We will continue to defend our efforts to give states greater flexibility to help low-income Americans rise out of poverty", she said.

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In Arkansas, failure to comply with the work requirement led to more than 18,000 people losing coverage a year ago.

The rulings came nine months after Boasberg, an appointee of President Barack Obama, first signaled his disapproval of the way President Donald Trump's health aides were handling the issue.

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.

He added that the department also didn't address the issues that prompted him to block the Kentucky program in June of a year ago.

"The effect of Judge Boasberg's order is that the work and community engagement requirements can not be enforced, and Arkansas must provide three months of retroactive coverage instead of the one month allowed under the Arkansas Works approval".

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Under the work requirements - which vary among the states in terms of what age groups are exempt and how many hours are needed - enrollees generally have to prove they have a job, go to school or are volunteers.

State Department of Human Services officials said Thursday they were taking down the website used for reporting hours worked and planned to notify people that the requirement had been halted.

In Arkansas, thousands of adults failed to tell the state their work status for three consecutive months, which led to disenrollment. Kentucky's rules were projected to remove up to 95,000 people from Medicaid.

Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services blasted Judge Boasberg's decision.

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