Kentucky’s appeal to compel many of its low-income residents on Medicaid to get jobs or lose benefits has been reinstated by the Trump administration.
On Tuesday night, federal health officials announced that they have given approval on Kentucky’s plan to impose “community engagement” requirements as part of Medicaid. The mandate was due to begin implementation this summer, but was blocked on orders by a US district court judge. According to the Judge James Boasberg, the Department of Health and Human Services did not adequately consider the impact of the mandate on the Kentucky HEALTH program’s central objective, which is to provide medical benefits to its residents.
The federal health officials believe that asking the recipients to work is in accordance with the objectives of Kentucky Medicaid to improve beneficiaries’ health and financial independence. They said the new rules of Kentucky’s Medicaid could begin as soon as April 1.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services will require adults of ages 19-64, non-disabled without dependents, to work, volunteer, go to school, take a job training course or participate in other activities for up to 80 hours a month to keep their benefits intact. In case of any violations in rules, the enrollees can be locked out of the program for up to six months.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is highly in favor of the new mandate in Kentucky’s Medicaid, as he feels this would benefit traditional Medicaid beneficiaries and will offer to improve the health of all participants.
“Kentucky HEALTH is essential to the long-term success of the state’s Medicaid program,” Bevin said.
The state predicted that the mandate would lead to a reduction in Medicaid rolls by approximately 95,000 people.
So far, five states, including Kentucky, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Indiana and New Hampshire, have received approvals. As of now Arkansas is the only state to have implemented the plan.
The mandate was implemented in Arkansas June 1. Since then, about 12,000 Arkansas residents have lost their Medicaid eligibility. A lawsuit against the Trump administration has been filled by a coalition of consumer groups to halt the mandate there.
“The Trump team essentially has approved the same legally troubled waiver, again proving this administration is a wrecking ball when it comes to health care law,” said Jeremy Leaming, a spokesman for the National Health Law Program, which is handling the lawsuits both in Kentucky and Arkansas.