Judge Blocks Trump Administration's Medicaid Work Requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky

Federal Judge Tosses Medicaid Work Requirements

A federal judge has once again blocked new rules for Kentucky's Medicaid program that would require those seeking to keep their health benefits to either get a job, go to school or volunteer.

On Wednesday, a federal judge dealt a massive blow to one of the Trump administration's pet projects.

Top Trump administration officials have promoted work requirements, saying they incentivize beneficiaries to lead healthier lives. 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. The plaintiffs are Kentucky residents who are receiving Medicaid. Several other states have requests pending with the Trump administration. In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he would address the decision in a news conference Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

In legal briefs and court hearings, attorneys for both states and the U.S. Justice Department argued the requirements help ensure states can continue to afford the additional costs of their Medicaid expansions to include people with slightly higher incomes - less than 10 percent of total costs, with the federal government covering the rest. There are seven similar state work requirements on deck to be considered by CMS, and the rulings have the potential to affect all. "Additionally, individuals who have not complied with the work and community engagement requirement from January to March 2019 can not be removed from the program for noncompliance going forward". "That provision of the Act does not turn the comprehensive Medicaid program into a buffet for states", he wrote. "It is nonsensical and illegal to add obstacles to Medicaid for large groups of individuals who are already working", said NHLP legal director Jane Perkins, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

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"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", Verma's statement reads. Since then, 18,000 people have lost their Medicaid benefits.

Expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults was a key pillar of former President Barack Obama's health care reforms. The work requirements mark the first time a waiver explicitly let states reduce the number of people covered by the program. "I have not yet had the opportunity to review the opinion in its entirety, but I plan to do so this evening and provide further comment tomorrow morning on the future of the Arkansas Works work requirement". 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. He signed an executive order previous year calling for new or strengthened work requirements for programs that include subsidized housing, food stamps and cash welfare benefits. It sort of went with their idea that people shouldn't really be getting government benefits if they can work. Politically, of course, work requirents are relatively popular, and tend to put progressives in the hard position of defending a failure to work by allegedly able-bodied beneficiaries, even though studies have shown that almost all of them work, are in school, or are taking care of family members. Beneficiaries there won't have to begin reporting hours worked until July, and next January is the earliest that any recipient could have coverage suspended for not complying.

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

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