Whitesburg KY

Hospitals back Medicaid work rule

The Kentucky Hospital Association has thrown its support behind the state’s effort to save a planned overhaul of Medicaid that would include a monthly work or “community engagement” requirement.

The nonprofit group, whose membership includes every hospital and health system in the state, has filed a friend of the court brief, backing the state’s appeal of a federal judge’s decision to strike down Kentucky HEALTH.

The Trump administration approved the program, also known as the state’s Section 1115 waiver, for a second time in November. But U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg vacated that decision in March.

In doing so, he sided with more than a dozen Medic- aid beneficiaries who’d filed a legal challenge maintaining that the program would harm Kentuckians across the state, from custodians and cashiers to musicians and retired workers, in need of health services. Both the Trump and Bevin administrations are appealing.

Despite an initial estimate from the state that the program could cost 95,000 people their Medicaid coverage, the hospital association touts Kentucky HEALTH and its work requirement as innovations that Kentucky should be allowed to try.

Kentucky HEALTH would require certain ablebodied Medicaid recipients to complete and report 80 hours a month of work or other qualifying activities, such as volunteering or job training, to keep their benefits. Other features would include monthly premiums for some people and a My Rewards account to earn virtual dollars for some benefits, such as routine dental and vision services.

More than 18,000 people dropped off of the Medicaid rolls last year in Arkansas due to a similar program that Boasberg rejected on the same day as Kentucky’s. That decision by the judge also is being appealed.

Samuel Brooke, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Insider, “When the waiver briefly went into effect in Arkansas, everyone saw the devastating effect it could have — thousands lost coverage in a matter of months. We are confident the appeals courts will similarly agree with the district court that the Medicaid program is designed to provide access to health care, and efforts to undercut that are contrary to Congress’ intent.”

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