Biden administration revokes Georgia Medicaid work requirements

Georgia will not be allowed to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries or charge them premiums, the Biden administration announced Thursday.

In a letter to the state dated Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said it was withdrawing approval of the work requirement policy and proposal to charge premiums, which was granted in the waning days of the Trump administration.

The agency said the policies would hurt, rather than help, people gain access to coverage, which is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic.

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"The lingering health consequences of COVID-19 infections further exacerbate the harms of these barriers to coverage for people with low income. Additionally, premiums can present a particular barrier to coverage. They can result in limited access to health care coverage for underserved communities, especially Black and low-income individuals compared to White and higher income peers," CMS said.

Georgia's plan, which had not yet taken effect, would cover adults who meet the work requirements and who earn no more than 100 percent of the federal poverty level — about $12,900 a year for an individual.

In order to qualify, Medicaid beneficiaries needed to complete at least 80 hours of work, community service or other qualifying activities per month. Most individuals who earned between 50 percent and 100 percent of the poverty level would also have been required to pay monthly premiums.

Gov. Brian KempBrian KempPerdue tests positive for COVID-19, campaign says Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections Legislatures move to limit governor powers after pandemic MORE (R) and the Trump administration's health officials argued that the proposal would improve people’s lives by valuing work. The Biden administration argues that it adds unnecessary barriers to coverage.

In an email, a spokeswoman for Kemp said the state plans to challenge the administration in court.

"We are disappointed the Biden Administration chose to turn its back on a bipartisan group in the Georgia General Assembly that came together to help create a fair and balanced healthcare framework that increases options and lowers costs. Though they attempted to hide behind the holiday in announcing two days before Christmas, we plan to challenge their misguided - likely political - decision in a court of law," said Kemp's communications director Katie Byrd.

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No state work requirements have been approved under the current administration, and courts have struck down previous attempts in other states that were approved by the Trump administration. 

"Georgia had been working with CMS to find a mutually agreeable path forward," CMS said in the letter. "The state has not submitted such a proposal to CMS at this time. We stand ready to work with the state to explore other options."

Updated at 3:30 p.m.