Advocates Say Trump HHS Continues to Ignore Medicaid's Core Objective
Washington - A federal judge ruled against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' approval of Medicaid waiver projects in Kentucky and Arkansas that include work mandates and other cuts to coverage. This marks the second time the court vacated HHS's approval of the Kentucky project. Significantly, the rulings mean that the states cannot move forward with the projects at this time.
National Health Law Program Legal Director Jane Perkins said, "We are gratified by the court's rulings today. They mean that low-income people in Kentucky and Arkansas will maintain their health insurance coverage -- coverage that enables them to live, work, and participate as fully as they can in their communities. Coverage matters: plain and simple. The court's decision is clear: Federal agencies must engage in reasoned decision making. That did not happen here. Rather than consider the Medicaid Act's aim of furnishing medical assistance, the Secretary doubled down on his consideration of other aims for Medicaid -- including the administration's stated aim of exploding the ACA's Medicaid expansion."
Kentucky Equal Justice Center Executive Director Rich Seckel welcomed the decision saying, "Conditioning access to Medicaid on work requirements has always been about blocking low-income individuals and families, many of whom are working numerous jobs or caring for sick family members, from accessing Medicaid. Today's decision reaffirms the congressional intent of Medicaid and will save more than 100,000 Kentuckians from losing their vital access to Medicaid."
Legal Aid of Arkansas Attorney Kevin De Liban said, "This is a great day. Everyone on Arkansas Works can go to bed tonight knowing that tomorrow they'll be able to get the health care they need to work and live a full life."
Southern Poverty Law Center Deputy Legal Director Samuel Brooke said, "The court reaffirmed the rights of financially insecure individuals to access health care, and concluded once again, that these 'waivers' are arbitrary and capricious. The ruling is a significant rebuff of the Trump administration's nefarious attempts to turn Medicaid, a program designed to ensure access to health care, into a work program."
The National Health Law Program and Southern Poverty Law Center are counsel in both cases, Stewart v. Azar (Ky.) and Gresham v. Azar (Ark.). The law firm of Jenner & Block is working with the National Health Law Program.
These counsel are joined by Kentucky Equal Justice Center in representing individuals in Kentucky who would be harmed by the State's project, which conditions Medicaid coverage on compliance with work and premium mandates, imposes lockout penalties on individuals who fail to meet administrative deadlines, and eliminates some previously covered benefits. According to the State's own data, nearly 100,000 Kentuckians are likely to lose health care coverage because of these radical changes to Medicaid.
In Arkansas, the National Health Law Program and Southern Poverty Law Center are joined by Legal Aid of Arkansas in representing individuals in Arkansas who have been harmed by that State's Medicaid waiver that has already cut more than 18,000 people from health care services.