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Ensuring equal justice for all Kentuckians

Kentucky Equal Justice Center is a non-profit poverty law advocacy center

The mission of Kentucky Equal Justice Center is to promote equal justice for all residents of the
Commonwealth by serving as an advocate for low income and other vulnerable members of society.

June 15, 2018

Health Advocates Urge Federal Court to Reverse Trump’s Approval of Medicaid Transformation in Kentucky

The National Health Law Program today issued this press release. Kentucky Equal Justice Center and Southern Poverty Law Center are co-counsel in the lawsuit.

Washington – Representing Kentuckians enrolled in Medicaid, the National Health Law Program, Kentucky Equal Justice Center (KEJC), and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today urged a federal judge to block the Medicaid waiver scheme because it violates the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ authority under the Social Security Act.

The law firm Jenner & Block is counsel to the National Health Law Program in the case, Stewart v. Azar.

In the Stewart oral argument, Ian Gershengorn, partner with Jenner & Block, argued that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services violated federal law when it approved the waiver request from Kentucky health officials. Gershengorn urged the court to vacate the approval because it will directly harm the plaintiffs in this case, as well as similarly situated Kentuckians, by jeopardizing their access to health care.

“The Kentucky waiver project, with its burdensome work requirements, premiums, and lock-out penalties, is an effort by Kentucky and HHS to transform the Medicaid program,” said Gershengorn, also a member of the National Health Law Program Board. “The law that the administration is operating under requires these waivers to further the purpose of the Medicaid Act, which is to furnish medical assistance. The waivers here do exactly the opposite – they restrict coverage and impede access to needed care. Unlike some other public assistance programs, Medicaid is not a jobs-training program, and the administration does not have the authority to turn it into one. The rule of law requires that the president adhere to and uphold federal law, not subvert it.”

National Health Law Program Legal Director Jane Perkins noted, “The statute also only allows the federal government to approve experimental projects designed to improve the administration of Medicaid. The restrictive policies approved in the Kentucky waiver have been previously tested in other public benefits programs, and consistently found to result in people losing eligibility and coverage. By the government’s own estimates, if allowed to stand, the approval will cause at least 100,000 Kentuckians to lose coverage. Health researchers estimate that the loses will be much higher.”
KEJC Senior Attorney Anne Marie Regan said, “Kentucky expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2014. Since then, the percentage of uninsured Kentuckians has gone from being one of the highest in the county to one of the lowest. We see our clients and low-income people all across the Commonwealth finally getting the preventive services and medical treatment they need. Medicaid coverage enables people to work. This approval got it exactly backwards by conditioning health coverage on work.”

Southern Poverty Law Center Deputy Legal Director Samuel Brooke said, “HHS failed to assess the impact of the waiver on low-income people. Many people enrolled in Medicaid are struggling to make it in low-wage jobs. Under this waiver, many of them will be forced off Medicaid, and will likely be unable to afford private health coverage. The Trump administration’s approval of this waiver was a critical misstep that should not be allowed to stand.”

Plaintiff Ronnie Stewart, 62, lives alone in Lexington, Kentucky. Before retiring from full time work, Mr. Stewart worked in the health care field in clinics and hospital settings. He is now unable to stay on his feet all day because of diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure, but under the waiver, he is expected to keep working until he is 64. Medicaid enables him to obtain treatment for these conditions, but that access to health care is now in jeopardy.

“Donald Trump made promises to protect Medicaid when he was campaigning, but as president, he is not doing that,” Stewart said. “I’m not alone in this predicament. There are many Kentuckians in the same boat, and we need the judge to reverse this harmful attack on Medicaid. We need to start promoting the common good by supporting Medicaid and other programs that benefit low-income and working Americans, rather than catering to special interests.”

For more comment on today’s oral argument from the attorneys, please contact: Jeremy Leaming, National Health Law Program, 301.233.0867,; Anne Marie Regan, KEJC, 502.468.9403,; or Jen Fuson, SPLC,202.834.6209,

June 6, 2018
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Allison Hight, Michelle Haubner and Maddy Clark

Victim of Crime Act grant brings new staff, challenges to Maxwell Street

Our immigration law program at Maxwell Street Legal Clinic welcomes new staff to help immigrant victims of crime! A grant under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) is funding two new case handlers and one new legal assistant at Maxwell Street. The new team will help victims of crime, survivors of domestic violence, and abandoned or abused children apply for immigration relief.

One of the new case handlers, Michelle Haubner, is moving to this new role after six months as a legal assistant at Maxwell Street. In her work there, Michelle has “most enjoyed being able to make connections with people from many different cultures, communities and backgrounds.” She looks forward to working directly with clients to help them reach their immigration goals.
Allison Hight joined the team this summer after graduating law school at the University of Michigan. She decided to go to law school in order to help immigrants and refugees and says she spent her three years in school, “itching to do the kind of work MSLC does.” Allison is eager to begin “working with clients to make both their immigration status and their lives more secure.”

Maddy Clark will be working with Michelle and Allison as the VOCA Legal Assistant. Maddy brings strong Spanish skills from her experience translating for the International Human Rights film festival in Argentina and from working with immigrants at a nonprofit in England. She says, “I’m excited to be working with immigrant communities because I think that it's important to uphold the American tradition of welcoming people into our country.”

Congratulations, Michelle, on your new position! And welcome, Allison and Maddy!

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KEJC Workers' Rights Task Force Meeting, May 16, 2017

Kentucky Equal Justice Center
201 West Short Street, Suite 310
Lexington, KY 40507