Federal Judge Blocks Medicaid Work Requirement In Arkansas & Kentucky

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson listens at left as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks to reporters outside the White House

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson listens at left as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks to reporters outside the White House

Requiring Medicaid enrollees to work in order to qualify for benefits violates the objective of the health care program for low-income people, a federal judge ruled Wednesday as he struck down a major health care priority for President Donald Trump's administration.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg issued two decisions Wednesday finding that Medicaid work requirements for low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky pose numerous obstacles to getting health care that haven't been adequately addressed by federal and state officials.

Advocates for the poor say Medicaid is a health care program, and work requirements have no place.

Arkansas was the state that had already implemented a work requirement, and had already kicked 18,000 people off Medicaid between September and December of past year for non-compliance (or actually, for the most part, failure to promptly report compliance). The Medicaid Act sets strict guidelines about how the program can be run, but the Department of Health and Human Services can approve what are called "Section 1115" waivers if a state has a custom-designed plan that would promote health and coverage beyond what traditional Medicaid does.

Kentucky's Medicaid program would have required people to get a job, go to school or volunteer to keep their health benefits. This is the second time Boasberg has blocked Kentucky's work requirement waiver, which has not yet been implemented.

Six other states have had work requirement waivers approved by the administration and seven states have applications pending. There are states, though, like Alabama, that seek to impose Medicaid work requirements without an expansion.

Several other Republican-controlled states are now seeking approval for similar work requirement programs.

Medicaid work requirements are a particular passion of Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.

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