On Aug. 14, advocacy groups filed
a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
challenging the approval of work requirements included under Arkansas’ Medicaid
waiver. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three of the state’s Medicaid
recipients and claims that HHS does not have the authority to approve work
requirements on the grounds that such requirements contradict Medicaid’s
mission of providing health care to people with low incomes.
In June, Arkansas became the first state to implement work
requirements for able-bodied Medicaid enrollees. The law required eligible
enrollees to complete 80 hours per month of work, job training, volunteering,
schooling or some combination of the above to maintain Medicaid eligibility.
Under the waiver, if an enrollee fails to meet the requirement for three
months, the enrollee will lose eligibility for the rest of a calendar year. As
of Aug. 14, 5,426
enrollees failed to meet the requirement for June and July. If any
of those individuals failed to meet the requirement or report their activities
for August by Sept. 5, they will lose coverage for the rest of the year.
The plaintiffs, the National Health Law Program and the
Southern Poverty Law Center, convinced a judge to overturn approval of Kentucky’s
work requirement in June through a similar lawsuit. The Arkansas
suit was filed before Judge James Boasberg, the same judge as in the Kentucky
case. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, has requested that the Arkansas
suit be assigned to a different judge.
Work requirements have also been approved for Indiana and
New Hampshire but have yet to be implemented. Work requirement waivers are currently
pending approval or are in a comment period for 11 other states.
While other states have sought to implement work
has moved in the opposite direction. SB 1108 prohibits the implementation of
work requirements as a condition of Medi-Cal eligibility. This bill recently
passed both the state Senate and the state Assembly and will now head to the
desk of Governor Jerry Brown.