Federal judge blocks Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirement

UPDATE — 7/2, 12:43 p.m. EDT: Responding to Friday’s judicial decision blocking Kentucky’s health department from revoking Medicaid benefits for hundreds of thousands of state residents, the state government will instead cut vision and dental coverage for nearly 500,000 residents who receive federally-subsidized insurance. 

According to the state’s Health and Family Services communications director, the move is a direct result of the federal court ruling which invalidated Gov. Bevin’s Medicaid overhaul plan, “meaning there is no longer a legal mechanism in place to pay for dental and vision coverage for about 460,000 beneficiaries”.


In a blow to the White House on Friday, a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s new rule requiring some of the state’s Medicaid recipients to work to continue qualifying for free medical coverage.

A plan approved by the Trump administration in January, Kentucky became the first state to require “able bodied” Medicaid recipients to find work, enter into a job-training program, or perform community service to continue receiving Medicaid benefits.

Under Kentucky’s plan authorized by Gov. Matt Bevin, exemptions were granted to the disabled, primary caregivers, the elderly, pregnant women and those under the age of 19. Those in violation of the new work rule faced a loss of Medicaid coverage for up to six months.

Bevin’s plan to make dramatic changes to the state’s health insurance program was set be implemented across the Bluegrass State by the end of 2018 and would have affected approximately 200,000 residents.

Following approval from the White House, Bevin also issued an executive order declaring Medicaid expansion mandated by the Affordable Care Act ended if the court system struck down the changes — terminating coverage for 95,000 Kentuckians by 2023.

Describing the move as “arbitrary and capricious” in his ruling, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote in his opinion:

“Although the (HHS) Secretary is afforded significant deference in his approval of pilot projects like Kentucky’s, his discretion does not insulate him entirely from judicial review. Such review reveals that the Secretary never adequately considered whether Kentucky HEALTH would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.  This signal omission renders his determination arbitrary and capricious.”

Boasberg’s ruling now sends the matter back to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for further review.

The court’s decision casts doubt on the future of plans by three other states, Indiana, Arkansas and New Hampshire, which have received approval from HHS to impose work or community-service requirements on Medicaid recipients.


[Washington Post] [Lexington Herald-Leader] [Louisville Courier Journal] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via Business Insider]