Screenshot Medicaid.gov

Fifteen Kentuckians who are enrolled in Medicaid filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Trump administration on Wednesday, arguing that its recent approval of Gov. Matt Bevin’s Section 1115 waiver is in violation of federal law and will endanger the health care of tens of thousands of low-income families in the state.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and the plaintiffs are being represented by the National Health Law Program, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Bevin’s waiver plan adds insurance premiums and work requirements for “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients, with the governor arguing that the “transformational” change is needed because Medicaid had devolved into a system that benefited people for whom it was not intended.

Last week, Bevin went further by signing an executive order directing his administration to end Medicaid expansion in Kentucky if any part of his waiver approved by the Trump administration is blocked by a legal challenge in the court system.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asserts that Kentucky’s waiver violates the HHS’s authority under the Social Security Act, as it is not consistent with the objectives of the Medicaid Act.

In a news release, the plaintiffs argued that Bevin’s HEALTH plan, “through imposition of premiums and cost sharing, ‘lockouts,’ benefits cuts, and a work requirement, the waiver will radically reshape Medicaid in a manner that, by the State’s own admission, will result in substantial reductions in coverage.”

“The Cabinet’s own estimate is that around 95,000 Kentuckians will lose Medicaid coverage,” stated Anne Marie Regan, the senior attorney for the Kentucky Equal Justice Center. “The purpose of Medicaid is to provide medical insurance to people who cannot afford it, not to create barriers to coverage. Demonstration waivers are supposed to make access to health care easier. This approval does the opposite. It is not only in violation of Medicaid law but is immoral.”

As for Bevin’s executive order to end expansion in Kentucky if a court blocks any part of his HEALTH plan, SPLC deputy legal director Samuel Brooke stated that “the governor’s threat – to punish the 400,000 residents who have received Medicaid under the expansion if a court rules against the Kentucky HEALTH project – is shameless. We will not be intimidated. We will defend the rights of individuals to enroll in Kentucky’s Medicaid program.”

Bevin’s spokesman Woody Maglinger and Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokesman Doug Hogan did not immediately reply to IL’s request for comment about the lawsuit.

In their news release, the plaintiffs are described as representing “Kentuckians from all walks of life who rely on Medicaid for their health care,” including a minister, mechanic, musician, retired health care worker, church administrator, bank teller, students, caregivers, house cleaners and housekeepers.”

It added that they “have a variety of health care concerns, from high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health problems to poor vision and dental problems,” and “are all in danger of losing Medicaid coverage” under the approved waiver.

The full complaint filed today can be read below.

Stewart v. Hargan, Lawsuit Challenging Kentucky Medicaid Waiver Project by insiderlouisville on Scribd

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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