Backed Medicaid work requirement rejected by U.S. appeals court

Henrietta Strickland
February 14, 2020

One of the requirements the court noted received the most attention was for Medicaid recipients between 19 and 49, requiring them to "work or engage in specified educational, job training, or job search activities for at least 80 hours per month".

Arkansas and Kentucky both created programs to require certain work thresholds to be met in order to qualify for coverage, which was approved by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Trump administration's legal bid to restore a work requirement for Medicaid benefits in Arkansas was rejected on appeal, a blow to the government's larger effort to reshape US health-care policy.

"The text of the statute includes one primary objective, which is providing health-care coverage without any restriction geared to healthy outcomes, financial independence or transition to commercial coverage", Circuit Judge David Sentelle, a Reagan appointee, wrote for a unanimous panel that also included Circuit Judges Nina Pillard and Harry Edwards, both Democratic appointees. Officials argue that work can make people healthier.

Medicaid is a federal-state program that covers about 70 million people, from pregnant women and newborns to disabled people and elderly nursing home residents. About 18,000 beneficiaries lost coverage previous year due to the rule. Opponents disagree, saying it ignores real-world circumstances faced by Medicaid recipients. More than 18,000 people lost coverage in Arkansas during its partial implementation.

Kevin De Liban, attorney at Legal Aid of Arkansas, said the rule negatively impacted low-income individuals and families. It's the biggest item in many states' budgets.

What's next: The most likely next step is an appeal to the Supreme Court. It is a huge part of the health care system, and the Trump administration has been fully committed, since day one, to shrinking it.

The National Health Law Program, which represented Medicaid enrollees affected by the work requirement, praised Friday's opinion. "But they probably won't".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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