Kentucky governor countersues over Medicaid work requirements

Kentucky governor countersues over Medicaid work requirements
© Greg Nash

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is countersuing to stop a lawsuit filed by critics of the state’s plan to institute Medicaid work requirements.

The administration filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Kentucky on Monday seeking a ruling that the state’s Medicaid waiver fully complies with federal law.

The waiver, which was approved in January, will allow Kentucky to impose strict work requirements on some Medicaid beneficiaries as well as charge monthly premiums and lock beneficiaries out of coverage if they don’t pay.

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The Bevin administration’s lawsuit was filed in response to a lawsuit by a group of activists in Kentucky who were seeking to block the work requirements from being implemented. The original lawsuit claimed that work requirements were unconstitutional, because changing Medicaid eligibility rules requires an act of Congress.

However, the plaintiffs sued the federal government – rather than Kentucky – for approving the work requirements, meaning that suit was filed in Washington, D.C., rather than Kentucky.

The lawsuit challenged various aspects of Kentucky’s waiver: work and premium requirements, a six-month Medicaid coverage lockout if a beneficiary gets a new job or a different salary but doesn’t tell the state and more.

The Bevin administration is now pushing to shift the decision to a federal court in Kentucky.

“A Kentucky court, with the full participation of the Commonwealth, should decide this vital issue,” Bevin's general counsel Steve Pitt said in a statement. “We have complete confidence that Kentucky HEALTH will be upheld and will serve as a successful national model.”

The Kentucky governor has threatened to end the state’s Medicaid expansion if a court invalidates the newly-approved waiver.

Bevin has repeatedly said the Medicaid expansion is not fiscally sustainable, and the waiver is needed to bring down the costs of covering so many new individuals.