Federal judge vacates Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky

Federal judge blocks proposed work requirements for Medicaid in KY

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., blocked work requirements imposed on Medicaid recipients in Kentucky and Arkansas. He further criticized Kentucky, which argued that their work requirement does further the mission of expanding health coverage because Gov. Matt Bevin meant to cancel Medicaid expansion entirely if he didn't get his way: "The Court can not concur that ... states are so armed to refashion the program Congress designed in any way they choose".

The ruling on Arkansas' waiver program could negatively affect the decision of that state's Republican-controlled Legislature on whether to renew funding for Medicaid expansion for another year, said Bo Ryall, CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association, which supports expansion and opposes the work requirement.

Boasberg, appointed by President Barack Obama, questioned whether Arkansas' work requirements "would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid". Having to meet and report arbitrary work requirements to keep their Medicaid coverage could be especially challenging for these patients.

"Cancer patients and survivors often become so sick from treatment and its long-term effects that they are unable or told not to work by their doctors".

Six other states have had work requirement waivers approved by the administration and seven states have applications pending. At least nine more have requests for such waivers pending. Since then, more than 16,000 Arkansas residents have lost Medicaid coverage.

-Steven Porter is an associate content manager and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand. They never went into effect because of Boasberg's ruling last summer.

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"Judge Boasberg's decision does not change that, and it does not require that the Arkansas Department of Human Services automatically re-enroll any of those individuals in the program".

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. "That provision of the Act does not turn the comprehensive Medicaid program into a buffet for states", he wrote.

KODJAK: So this was really a major initiative from the Trump administration. The judge's decision suggests that notion is directly opposed to what Medicaid was created to provide: "the provision of medical coverage to the needy". It sort of went with their idea that people shouldn't really be getting government benefits if they can work. There are exceptions for people who are ill or taking care of a family member. Advocates for the poor said the state's website was confusing to navigate, particularly for people with limited computer skills.

Craig Wilson, director of health policy at the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, a nonpartisan health research group, said he believes policymakers will appeal court rulings all the way to the Supreme Court.

While the administration said it wanted to test the work requirements, none of the states that have been cleared to begin have a plan to track whether enrollees find jobs or improve their health - the key goals of the program, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

"As long as they hold on to hope that some judge will rule in their favor, states will continue to pursue work requirements", Wilson said.

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