US appeals panel upholds block of Arkansas Medicaid work requirements

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel in Washington upheld a lower court’s decision on Friday that blocked the Trump administration’s work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found Arkansas’ work requirements for Medicaid recipients to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

About 18,000 people in Arkansas lost benefits because of the work requirements, but it wasn’t clear how many obtained coverage elsewhere.

“In short, we agree with the district court that the alternative objectives of better health outcomes and beneficiary independence are not consistent with Medicaid,” the decision said. “The text of the statute includes one primary purpose, which is providing health care coverage without any restriction geared to healthy outcomes, financial independence or transition to commercial coverage.”

Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Medicaid is a federal-state program that covers about 70 million people, from pregnant women and newborns to disabled people and elderly nursing home residents. Under the Affordable Care Act, states gained the option of expanding the program to many low-income adults previously ineligible. More than 10 million people have gained coverage as a result.

The Trump administration has allowed states to require able-bodied adults drawing Medicaid benefits to work, volunteer or study. Officials argue that work can make people healthier. Nearly 20 states are in various stages of trying to implement work requirements.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement today regarding the decision on Friday that blocked the Trump administration’s work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

“I am disappointed in today’s decision and am reviewing and discussing next steps with the Department of Justice. The effect of this decision is that work and community engagement requirements cannot be enforced, and Arkansas must provide three months of retroactive coverage instead of the one month allowed under the Arkansas Works approval. Beneficiaries who did not comply with the work and community engagement requirements for three consecutive months in 2018 and were removed from the program remain eligible to reapply for coverage through the Medicaid expansion program.”

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

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