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Oral Argument Over Medicaid Work Requirements Appeals Coming Friday

By Steven Porter  
   October 08, 2019

The hearing, which pertains directly to Kentucky and Arkansas but which could have broader consequences, will take place before a three-judge panel.

The dispute over whether the Trump administration overstepped its legal authority in approving Medicaid work requirements for Kentucky and Arkansas will be back in a federal courtroom this week, this time at the appellate level.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled last spring that Health and Human Services officials failed to adequately consider what effect the policy would have on coverage in the two states. Boasberg blocked the government's approvals of those Medicaid work requirements, and the government appealed.

Oral arguments in the appellate dispute are scheduled for Friday morning at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where attorneys for each side will have 20 minutes to make their case, according to the court's calendar.

The hearing will take place before three judges: Cornelia T.L. Pillard, who was appointed in 2013; David B. Sentelle, who was appointed in 1987; and Harry T. Edwards, who was appointed in 1980.

Friday's arguments pertain specifically to Kentucky and Arkansas, but the government's attorneys acknowledged in a letter to the court last week that there are two similar cases following behind. Boasberg, who was appointed in 2011, blocked Medicaid work requirements in New Hampshire in July, and he's presiding over a challenge to similar rules in Indiana.

Boosters of these requirements argue the policies help beneficiaries climb out of poverty by giving them stronger incentives to find employment.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma told HealthLeaders earlier this year that Medicaid work requirements align with a "whole person" approach to healthcare.

"There's a lot of discussion about the social determinants of health, and in order to improve health outcomes, we have to look at the person holistically and address those social issues," Verma said. "Part of that is finding employment."

Opponents of the policies, however, have expressed concerns that the added hurdles will simply bar more poor people from coverage.

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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