A Federal Judge Just Blocked Kentucky’s Plans To Cut Medicaid

The state can’t add work requirements to the insurance program.

A Florida woman goes in for a medical exam. Skip O'Rourke/Tampa Bay Times/ZUMApress.com

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

On Friday afternoon, a federal judge put a halt to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s (R) plan to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients. The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by 15 Kentucky residents enrolled in Medicaid who contested the work requirement, claiming it would “relegate them to second-class status within Medicaid.”

Kentucky’s experiment was just the first of a growing number of states eager to cut Medicaid for eligible residents under the Trump administration by adding work requirements.  Earlier this year, Kentucky and Indiana both received waivers from the Trump administration for Medicaid work requirements, requiring at least 80 and 20 hours of work a month respectively. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services had not allowed Republican states to add work requirements.

In his opinion on the case, Judge James E. Boasberg, an Obama nominee, explained that, “Such review reveals that the [HHS] 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 also stated that the new laws “primarily (though not exclusively)” targeted citizens to whom benefits were extended to under the Affordable Care Act.

Despite the ruling, Kentuckians aren’t out of the clear yet.  In a January executive order, Bevin wrote that if any component of the work requirement waiver is blocked, state officials had six months to end the Medicaid expansion program, a provision of Obamacare that allows anyone up to 138 percent of the poverty line to gain insurance through Medicaid. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, enrollment in Medicaid more than doubled in Kentucky after the ACA, and rolling back expanded coverage could leave more than 600,000 residents without insurance.

While Friday’s ruling does not directly challenge a January decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)  to allow states to impose work requirements, it does provide a precedent for legal challenges in other states. In June, the governors of both Virginia and Michigan signed legislation to add work requirements to their state’s Medicaid programs, but neither have submitted their proposal to CMS. 

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate