Underneath the sweeping, antagonistic rhetoric from the Trump administration, the president and his associates have aimed to reshape the American sociopolitical landscape in some concrete ways. Early on, Trump and Congressional Republicans tried to completely overturn the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, and although they failed with that broad effort, one health policy change on which they have made progress is the shift to allowing work requirements for Medicaid recipients.
Now, though, that change has been at least temporarily halted thanks to the ruling of a federal judge in Washington, D.C. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the plans of Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin to impose work requirements that would affect hundreds of thousands of Medicaid recipients violate the original law that created the program in 1965. The next step is that the plan for the work requirements will again be submitted for review by the federal government.
Judge Boasberg’s ruling could have broad repercussions because Kentucky is the first state to have gotten approval to add work requirements to their state Medicaid program, so the decision could set a precedent.
The work requirements have been cast by advocacy groups as an unnecessary burden considering the fact that many able-bodied adults covered by Medicaid do already work; the issue for those Medicaid recipients is that their jobs are low-paying, so they need government assistance to get by. For others, of course, due to extenuating life circumstances, work may not be an option, at least not at the level required by Bevin’s proposed changes, which would demand at least 20 hour work weeks.
Should those among the possibly around 200,000 affected not be able to work, they would have been required to either volunteer or attend some kind of school or job training in order to continue on with their coverage after this weekend.
The point of Medicaid, though, is to provide health coverage to those who are struggling to manage it on their own. The point of the program is not to grant health coverage as a reward for doing something Republican state officials think is beneficial for either the individual in question or the community.
Tightening the program as Bevin wants could result in some 100,000 people dropping off Medicaid, many of whom might still be eligible but would simply be shut out somewhere in the newly bureaucratized process.
As a study of situations like that Bevin wants to unfold in Kentucky from the Kaiser Family Foundation put it:
‘Specifically, under all scenarios, most disenrollment would be among individuals who would remain eligible but lose coverage due to new administrative burdens or red tape versus those who would lose eligibility due to not meeting new work requirements.’
Going forward, plans floated at times by the Bevin administration include the complete cancellation of the Medicaid expansion approved by his Democratic predecessor, which would force almost half a million people out of their health coverage. Judge Boasberg was appointed to his present position by President Barack Obama, and as time goes on and Trump gets to appoint more judges, it may get increasingly difficult to stop plans like Bevin’s.