On Friday, June 29, 2018, a Federal judge blocked Kentucky’s plan to impose Medicaid work requirements. The plan was intended to begin to be phased into effect on July 1, 2018 with most counties implementing the requirements by years end.
The lawsuit, brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of 16 Kentuckians at risk of losing coverage, was filed by National Health Law Program, the Kentucky equal Justice Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Oral arguments were heard on June 15, 2018. Obama appointee Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the Trump administration’s approval of the work requirement plan has been “arbitrary and capricious” because the administration and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar “never adequately considered whether Kentucky HEALTH would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.” Additionally, the judge stated that Azar had a “glaring” oversight and did not address that an estimated 95,000 Kentuckians would lose coverage under the new plan.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma called the ruling “disappointing” and is working with the Justice Department to determine whether to appeal the ruling.
KY Governor Matt Bevin stated that if this case ultimately loses in court, he will instead end Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. His administration has stated that in light of the ruling, Kentucky would work with federal officials to quickly resolve the “single issue raised” by the court and hopefully implement the work requirements.
While this ruling only affects work requirements in Kentucky, the suit will be closely watched as it will directly affect the ability to implement work requirements in other states. Currently, Indiana, Arkansas and New Hampshire have been granted waivers to require work as a condition to Medicaid eligibility and numerous states have waivers pending with CMS.
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