Politics

Appeals Court Strikes Down Arkansas Medicaid Work Requirements Approved by Trump Admin

A federal appeals court has struck down a Trump administration approval of a state plan to add work requirements to the healthcare program that helps with medical costs for some low-income people, known as Medicaid.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a lower courts ruling that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has acted in an “arbitrary and capricious manner” when he approved Arkansass plan to add work and community engagement requirements to Medicaid.

Under Medicaid, states can choose to deviate from the minimum coverage requirements as long as the HHS secretary approves such a deviation. A secretary can authorize “any experimental, pilot, or demonstration project which, in the judgment of the secretary, is likely to assist in promoting the objectives” of Medicaid, according to the law.

A number states, including Arkansas and Kentucky, requested approvals from HHS to impose work and community engagement requirements as a condition of Medicaid eligibility. Under the plan, Medicaid enrollees are required to work or engage in educational, job training, or job search activities for at least 80 hours per month.

The appeals case is centered on Azars approval of the states plans, rather than the legality of the work requirements.

Opponents of the states move to aid work requirements say this would cause thousands of people to lose coverage. Analysts estimated that about 18,000 people lost coverage in Arkansas while between 86,000 and 136,000 people would lose coverage in Kentucky.

A number of residents from Arkansas and Kentucky under the Medicaid programs sued the Trump administration in separate lawsuits, challenging the decision to approve the plans. The district court found in favor of the individuals, effectively halting the programs. The HHS appealed to the D.C. Circuit court and both cases were consolidated on appeal.

Kentucky, under a new Democratic governor, terminated the work requirements at the end of 2019 and asked to dismiss the case at the appeals court.

Judge David Sentelle, an appointee of President Reagan, wrote in the opinion (pdf) that the HHS secretary did not appropriately consider the statutory purpose if Medicaid, to provide medical coverage to the needy, but instead focused on alternative objectives such as improving health outcomes and encouraging beneficiaries oRead More – Source

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