Advocates sue Trump officials to block Arkansas Medicaid work requirements

Advocates sue Trump officials to block Arkansas Medicaid work requirements
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Advocates on Tuesday sued the Trump administration to try to block Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas, after an initial victory against similar rules in Kentucky.

The National Health Law Program, which advocates on health policy issues for low-income people, filed suit in federal district court in Washington to block the work requirements in Arkansas.

The suit argues that imposing work requirements in Medicaid is not within the Trump administration’s authority without action from Congress, and enacting the measures is “threatening irreparable harm to the health and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable in our country.”

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Imposing requirements that people work or they will lose their health insurance provided through Medicaid is at the center of the Trump administration’s efforts to remake the program in a more conservative way.

Trump officials argue that “able-bodied” people in the program should be working to lift themselves out of poverty.

Democrats are fiercely opposed to the idea, warning that it will cause thousands of people to lose coverage, including some who meet the requirements but simply don’t meet the bureaucratic hurdles to prove they are working.

"This lawsuit is the continuation of our work, with our state and national partners, to stop the Trump administration’s attempt to transform Medicaid from a health insurance program to a work program — and along the way, to end coverage of medically necessary care for thousands of low-income people,” said National Health Law Program Director Jane Perkins.

In June, a federal judge blocked similar Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky, the first court test for the Trump administration’s initiative. The new lawsuit brings the battle to Arkansas.

"This lawsuit has one goal, which is to undermine our efforts to bring Arkansans back into the workforce, increase worker training, and to offer improved economic prospects for those who desire to be less dependent on the government," said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). He added that the state is providing "substantial assistance" to help people meet the reporting requirements. 

Indiana and New Hampshire are also moving forward with Medicaid work requirements.

Despite the judge’s ruling on Kentucky's requirements, the Trump administration has vowed to press forward with its plan to impose work requirements in states that request them.

Trump officials have said they think they can overcome the judge’s Kentucky ruling, which found that the administration did not adequately consider the consequences of its move on people losing coverage. Last month, officials reopened the comment period on the proposal in an effort to show that they are giving the proposal more study.

This story was updated at 5:38 p.m.