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As the world awaited President Donald Trump's next Supreme Court pick, a judge in Kentucky hearing a Medicaid case is showing just why federal court appointments are so instrumental.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, recently wrote a decision that cast aside work rules for Medicaid recipients that had been agreed upon by the state and the Department of Health and Human Services.
These rules had a basis in the Social Security Act, which allows for states to “demonstrate and evaluate state-specific policy approaches to better serving Medicaid populations.”
One of the most commonly agreed-upon approaches to welfare programs is to require an able-bodied person to work when they can, or at least put forth the effort to demonstrate they are in pursuit of gainful employment.
Twenty years ago, the idea was so universally accepted that even then-President Bill Clinton signed off on legislation adding an element of personal responsibility to welfare programs. He even had campaigned in 1992 to “end welfare as we have come to know it.”
Such requirements have, of late, been a staple of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and even a majority of Democrats can agree that those who are able to work should have to in order to receive benefits.
That did not stop Boasberg from finding that the state was in violation of the intent of the Medicaid law, which he simply stated was to furnish coverage. The idea that the law provided for state-specific experimentation seems lost in his decision.
The effects are not just limited to those seeking health benefits in the Bluegrass State. As a result of the decision, Gov. Matt Bevin was also forced to cut dental and vision benefits that were being added via a similar program.
Other states that had applied for work requirement waivers — and had been approved — included Arkansas, Indiana and New Hampshire. Several more were awaiting approval.
All such situations will face review and scrutiny given the outcome in Kentucky, where the state is also faced with going back to the drawing board. The glee from those on the left was palpable in the wake of the decision:
By imposing new onerous conditions to qualify for the program, Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver effectively locked out the very people it was designed to help. Work requirements for Medicaid have it backwards: People need to be healthy in order to work. https://t.co/KzFpGKtTzH
— Southern Poverty Law Center (@splcenter) July 9, 2018
However, when the unintended consequences of these decisions were made manifest, the same factions were eager to point fingers:
Friday, a federal judge rejected Kentucky’s plan to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Today, Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration cut Medicaid dental & vision benefits to nearly half a million Kentuckians. This action is vindictive and cruel.https://t.co/4ObgOxp90o
— Southern Poverty Law Center (@splcenter) July 2, 2018
Kentucky was actually the second state to implement the requirements. The first was Arkansas, and as of yet, there are no legal obstacles standing in its way. It remains to be seen whether its program will survive in light of this ruling.