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Why Did a Federal Judge Block the Medicaid Work Requirements?

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Medicaid work requirements undermine the program’s mission of providing health care for the needy, dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to push the poor toward self-sufficiency.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg in Washington, D.C. recently blocked work requirements for low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky. The judge held that the states’ requirements create numerous obstacles to getting health care that have gone unresolved by federal and state officials.

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 elder or a child, or 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.

Medicaid is the government’s largest health insurance program. It covers 1 in 5 Americans, ranging from pregnant women and infants, to the severely disabled and elderly nursing home residents.

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

Suggested Key Terms: Medicaid, Medicaid Planning Lawyer

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