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Medicaid Work Rules Blocked by Federal Judge

A state law that imposed work requirements on low-income Medicaid recipients in Arkansas and Kentucky was struck down by a federal judge, who noted that the requirements are counter to the mission of the program goal: to provide health care for the needy.

Despite efforts by the Trump administration to force Medicaid recipients into the workplace, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg in Washington, D.C. ruled that the state’s requirements created obstacles to providing health care to the poor.

KCAU reports in the article “US judge blocks Medicaid work rules in blow to Trump” that Judge Boasberg sent the federal Health and Human Services Department back to square one. The judge didn’t determine the central question of whether work requirements are incompatible with Medicaid, a federal-state program that traditionally allows states broad leeway to set benefits and eligibility.

The judge said that HHS approval of the Arkansas work requirement was “arbitrary and capricious because it did not address…whether and how the project would implicate the ‘core’ objective of Medicaid: the provision of medical coverage to the needy.” Likewise, the judge said the same in his ruling on Kentucky.

About 60% of adults on Medicaid already work in low-wage jobs, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Most of those not working say they are in poor health, are caring for an elderly family member or a child are attending school full-time.

Kentucky Republican Governor Matt Bevin said his state would appeal.

“We have one guy in Washington who thinks he owns Kentucky,” said Bevin, referring to the judge. “We’re right, and we’ll be right in the end. And one guy can gum up the works if he wants, for a while, but this, too, shall pass.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, said he doesn’t think the ruling jeopardizes the future of Medicaid expansion, which covers more than 200,000 residents. About 18,000 have lost coverage as a result of the work requirements.

President Donald Trump supports work requirements for public programs across the government. Last year, he signed an executive order directing Cabinet agencies to add or strengthen work requirements for programs, including subsidized housing, food stamps and cash welfare.

Advocates for the poor say that there is no place for work requirements in the Medicaid program. They say that large groups of Medicaid recipients are already working, or they are providing full-time health care for family members or suffering themselves from chronic health issues.

Roughly 12 million Americans are covered by Medicaid expansion, a key part of former President Obama’s health care law. Officials in GOP-led states argue that work requirements and modest premiums are needed to ensure political acceptance of the program.

Medicaid is the largest health insurance program run by the federal government, providing health care for one in five Americans. Many pregnant women, infants, severely disabled people and elderly nursing home residents are Medicaid recipients.

Reference: KCAU (March 27, 2019) “US judge blocks Medicaid work rules in blow to Trump”

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