White House un­de­terred in seek­ing Med­i­caid re­quire­ment

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Nation -

WASH­ING­TON — Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, whose push to im­pose work re­quire­ments on Med­i­caid ben­e­fi­cia­ries was dealt a blow by a fed­eral judge in June, say they have found a way around the rul­ing and will con­tinue to al­low states to put the re­stric­tions in place.

The judge, James Boas­berg of U.S. Dis­trict Court in Wash­ing­ton, stopped a Ken­tucky plan to in­tro­duce the work re­quire­ments af­ter find­ing that the sec­re­tary of health and hu­man ser­vices had failed to con­sider the state’s es­ti­mate that the new rules would cause 95,000 low­in­come peo­ple to lose Med­i­caid cov­er­age. Lim­it­ing ac­cess to med­i­cal as­sis­tance does not pro­mote the ob­jec­tives of the Med­i­caid pro­gram, he said.

But ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said they could side­step the rul­ing by pro­vid­ing a bet­ter ex­pla­na­tion of the ra­tio­nale for work re­quire­ments. The of­fi­cials have a nar­row read­ing of Boas­berg’s de­ci­sion, say­ing he faulted them for fail­ing to fol­low proper pro­ce­dure. They can sat­isfy his con­cerns, they say, by com­pil­ing a fuller record and show­ing they have thor­oughly re­viewed the ev­i­dence.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said it was “invit­ing ad­di­tional com­ments” on Ken­tucky’s pro­posal, to hear what peo­ple had to say in the wake of the court de­ci­sion. The dead­line for pub­lic com­ments is next Satur­day.

Op­po­nents of work re­quire­ments say they un­fairly pun­ish peo­ple who face bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment, and they can block ac­cess to pro­grams that help en­able peo­ple to hold a job. But ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say they are com­mit­ted to work re­quire­ments be­cause they be­lieve they not only re­duce reliance on gov­ern­ment pro­grams, but also im­prove a per­son’s phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

“We are fully com­mit­ted to work re­quire­ments and com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion re­quire­ments in the Med­i­caid pro­gram,” said Alex Azar, the sec­re­tary of health and hu­man ser­vices.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proved the Ken­tucky plan as a demon­stra­tion project, but it clearly em­bod­ies Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vi­sion for the fu­ture of the so­cial safety net.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials have al­lowed states to im­pose work re­quire­ments on Med­i­caid ben­e­fi­cia­ries in Ar­kan­sas, In­di­ana and New Hamp­shire, as well as Ken­tucky. Seven other states are seek­ing fed­eral per­mis­sion, in the form of waivers.

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