SCOTUS will hear a case on Medicaid work requirements

Reuters reports that the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by the Trump administration that could have the effect of requiring people on Medicaid to work. 

This case particularly has to do with policies implemented in Arkansas and New Hampshire, although some seventeen other states are now pursuing similar measures. What the policies do is require able-bodied people receiving Medicaid to do some work, even volunteer work.

Arkansas and New Hampshire, in particular, implemented such policies after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved them in 2018. It was the Trump administration’s way of reigning in the massive expansion of Medicaid following Barrack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The Hill reports, however, that “Opponents of work requirements argue that the rules don’t improve public health and are instead designed to kick people out of Medicaid.”

Case history

The policies implemented by Arkansas and New Hampshire were challenged in court by individuals receiving Medicaid.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected both state’s policies, in two separate cases. Both decisions were appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The judges of that court upheld the lower court ruling.

The opinion stated, “[Medicaid has] one primary purpose, which is providing healthcare coverage without any restriction geared to healthy outcomes, financial independence or transition to commercial coverage.”

The court appears to have been particularly concerned about people losing Medicaid coverage, as it noted that 18,000 people lost their coverage over the first five months of the implementation of the Arkansas policy. It is unclear whether or not those individuals needed to be on Medicaid in the first place.

The Trump administration has since taken up these cases, appealing them once again. And, now the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear them.

A caveat

If Joe Biden becomes president, then this case could become moot. That is because Biden would be expected to eliminate any work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

Jane Perkins, the legal director for the health care advocacy group National Health Law Program, told Reuters that “the Biden administration can certainly change this policy, and we hope that will happen.”

Whereas President Trump has tried to limit Medicaid, Biden, similar to Obama, would be expected to expand it.

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