Appeals court strikes down Trump approval of Medicaid work requirements
A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the Trump administration’s approval of Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas, the latest legal blow to one of President Trump’s signature health initiatives.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling that the approval of the work requirements was “arbitrary and capricious.”
More than 18,000 people lost coverage in Arkansas due to the work requirements before they were halted by a lower court.
The court found that the Trump administration disregarded the statutory purpose of Medicaid — to provide health coverage — and did not adequately account for the coverage losses that would result from the work requirements.
“Failure to consider whether the project will result in coverage loss is arbitrary and capricious,” Judge David Sentelle, an appointee of President Reagan, wrote in the opinion.
Requiring Medicaid recipients to work or else lose coverage is a top priority of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. She argues that the policy helps lift people out of poverty by getting them jobs and out of Medicaid into employer-based insurance.
But Democrats and health care advocates have denounced the move, saying it imposes burdensome paperwork requirements on low-income people that cause them to lose coverage even if they are working.
The policy has also faced a string of legal losses, with courts ruling that Congress would need to act to authorize the work requirements.
Arkansas was the only state where the requirements went into effect before being blocked by the courts. Several other states’ efforts were approved, but the initiatives have been halted as the issue works its way through the courts.
“The Court recognized the tragic harm that these work requirements have caused people in Arkansas doing their best to get ahead,” said Kevin De Liban, an attorney at Legal Aid of Arkansas, which helped challenge the requirements. “Now, more than two hundred thousand Arkansans on the program can rest easier knowing that they’ll have health care when they need it.”
Conservative changes to Medicaid have been a leading priority of the Trump administration, which also recently announced plans to let states block-grant their funding for the program. That move was also denounced by Democrats as inevitably leading to coverage losses and is also likely to be challenged in court.
Kentucky had originally also been part of the work requirement litigation, but a Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, was elected last year and ended the initiative.
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