Courtesy of Pixabay

Oral arguments are expected by autumn in the Trump administration’s appeal of a judge’s decision to strike down Kentucky’s now-stalled overhaul of Medicaid.

Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit partly agreed to a request from the Trump administration for the case to be expedited, despite opposition from the group of Medicaid recipients that had sued the government.

Court records indicate that oral arguments in the Kentucky HEALTH case — and one involving a similar Medicaid initiative in Arkansas — are to be heard no later than October.

Kentucky HEALTH, also known as the state’s Section 1115 waiver, is an effort by the Bevin administration to put new rules in place for many Medicaid recipients to keep their benefits.

For example, certain “able-bodied” adults would have to complete and report 80 hours a month of work or “community engagement,” such as job training or volunteering. Other proposed rules include paying monthly premiums, and needing to earn virtual dollars in a My Rewards account to obtain certain benefits, such as routine dental and vision coverage.

The program was set to start April 1 (though the phasing in of the work requirement was not due to start until July).

However, the whole program was short-circuited in late March, when U.S. District Judge James Boasberg vacated the Trump administration’s November re-approval of Kentucky HEALTH, saying that it had been done in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, without adequately considering the potential for massive coverage losses.

On the same day, Boasberg also rejected a similar Medicaid demonstration project in Arkansas that had cost thousands of people their Medicaid coverage last year.

Soon afterward, the Trump administration indicated that it would appeal Boasberg’s decision. It also requested that the appeal be expedited “so that the projects can go forward and so that, after this Court’s decision, the losing party would be afforded an opportunity to decide whether to ask the Supreme Court to consider the cases before the end of the next Term.”

The administration also said Boasberg’s decisions had caused “significant disruption to the detriment of the States and the federal government” and pointed out that the matter has national implications since many other states are considering changing their Medicaid programs.

Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services | Photo courtesy of HHS

But the Medicaid recipients argued against the need for the appeal to be handled in a sped-up fashion, noting among other things: “The waiver authority the Secretary (Alex Azar) is purporting to exercise was intended to allow limited experiments for limited time periods. It would thus be perverse to grant the government expedited consideration on the ground that the government is eager to use its waiver authority to bypass Congress and ‘fundamentally transform Medicaid’ by imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients nationwide. Expedition is manifestly unwarranted.”

 

Darla Carter
Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.