Judge squashes Kentucky plan to enforce work requirements for Medicaid recipients
By Melanie Eversley
With just days to go before they were to take effect, a federal judge has blocked new Kentucky rules that would have created work requirements for Medicaid recipients, National Public Radio is reporting.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued the ruling on Friday that blocks the mandate pushed by Gov. Matt Bevin. Boasberg said the program, called Kentucky HEALTH, approved by the Trump administration was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The judge wrote in his ruling that when Alex Azar, U.S. health and human services secretary, approved Kentucky’s proposal, he “never considered whether Kentucky HEALTH would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.”
Boasberg said it was “glaring” that Azar neglected to mention that 95,000 people could lose coverage under the plan.
Health policy experts told NPR that the judge made the appropriate move.
“The court made the right decision,” Elizabeth Lower-Basch, director of income and work supports at the Center for Law and Social Policy, told the news organization. “It found that HHS did not even consider the basic question of whether the waiver would harm the core Medicaid goal of providing health coverage, and it prohibits Kentucky from implementing it until HHS makes such an assessment.”
The governor filed a countersuit in February and he has said he would dismantle the state’s expansion of Medicaid if the courts block his mandate.
Bevin’s plan requires “able bodied” Medicaid patients to find work, train for work or volunteer if they want to be eligible for medical benefits, according to NPR. Kentucky was the first state to get approval for such a program.
Seema Verma, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement that the decision was a disappointment.
“States are the laboratories of democracy and numerous administrations have looked to them to develop and test reforms that have advanced the objectives of the Medicaid program,” she said. “The Trump Administration is no different.”
She said her agency is considering whether to take the case to the Justice Department for an appeal.
Under its previous governor, Steven Beshear, Kentucky expanded Medicaid eligibility to more than 500,000 low-income residents, NPR reported.