WASHINGTON – The Trump administration’s efforts to let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients go to the Supreme Court.
Judges agreed on Friday to hear the administration’s defense of the controversial program despite a unanimous defeat at the hands of a federal appeals committee and the likelihood that President-elect Joe Biden will end the program.
While forcing some welfare recipients to work has been federal policy since the 1990s, it is unusual to force low-income people to work or prepare for a job in exchange for coverage. medical.
Only Arkansas and New Hampshire have work requirements for Medicaid, although trials have been approved for seven other states, and another 10 states have applied. An earlier program in Kentucky was abandoned.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled unanimously in February that requiring work does not promote Medicaid’s core mission, which is healthcare. The decision was drafted by Judge David Sentelle, appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.
In Arkansas, more than 18,000 people lost Medicaid coverage under the program during a five-month period in 2018. The appeals court found it was “arbitrary and capricious” on the part of the Department of Health. Health and Social Services for not having considered such a potential outcome. .
Opponents of Medicaid’s labor rule had urged the Supreme Court not to consider the administration’s appeal, especially amid the COVID-19 public health emergency.
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“In a pandemic in which 50 million Americans filed for unemployment and nearly 12 million lost employer-sponsored health insurance, the secretary of health and human services is asking this court to revive demonstration projects that would allow states to fire people from Medicaid for failure. to seek and get jobs that don’t exist, ”wrote former Acting United States Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn in opposition on demand.
Jane Perkins, legal director of the National Health Law Program, said the administration “ignored the significant loss of health coverage these approvals would cause. Tens of thousands of people would lose their Medicaid coverage and become uninsured. “.
But current Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall noted that under the Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court two years later, most states have expanded Medicaid to include ” a large number of non-disabled adults of working age ”.
The reasoning of the appeals court, writes Wall, “threatens to hamper innovations that can make state Medicaid programs more effective and sustainable.”