White House undeterred in seeking Medicaid requirement
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.