ADEA State Update

Update on Medicaid Work Requirements

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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 requirements, California 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.

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