HHS Seeks to Reverse Court Ruling Nullifying Kentucky Medicaid Waiver

August 13, 2018 Updated: August 13, 2018

The Trump administration says it will work to reverse a court decision blocking a Kentucky Medicaid waiver, that would, among other things, tie work requirements to Medicaid eligibility.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington nullified the waiver in June, saying that the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) didn’t fully consider the ramifications of the waiver, which the state estimated might result in as many as 95,000 people losing coverage by the government-run health care program. He said the department’s decision was not in line with the Administrative Procedure Act, which allows a court to overrule an agency’s decision if it believes it “failed to consider an important aspect of the problem.”

The ruling came after 15 Kentucky residents filed a lawsuit against the state on the grounds that they could lose their health care coverage if new policies under the waiver were to be put into effect.

HHS plans to demonstrate that it did its due diligence in considering the ramifications of the waiver and is seeking additional comments, ahead of an Aug. 18 deadline.

“We suffered one blow in a district court in litigation,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “We are undeterred. We are proceeding forward. We are fully committed to work requirements and community participation requirements in the Medicaid program. We will continue to litigate. We will continue to approve plans.”

Under the waiver, Kentucky could require its Medicaid patients to prove that they have participated in training, community service, a substance abuse treatment program or worked for at least 80 hours a month.

Critics say that could keep people from accessing health care services who need it to keep their jobs. The administration says it believes the work requirements will improve people’s physical and mental health and reduce reliance on government programs.

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