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Press release
March 27, 2019

Statement: Boasberg Ruling Protects the Health of Arkansas and Kentucky Residents and Ensures They Won't Lose Medicaid Coverage

Washington, D.C. – Families USA released the following statement regarding the ruling made today by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to block Medicaid work requirements

Families USA applauds the ruling made today by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to protect the health of American people and families.

The decision is a victory for health care in Arkansas and Kentucky—30,000 people in Arkansas and 90,000 people in Kentucky will not lose access to Medicaid because of pointless barriers and red tape. And it makes it clear that Medicaid’s purpose is to help families get health care so that America has a healthy and productive workforce, and work requirements are an extra-legal barrier in preventing that goal.

The Judge ruled the approval of work requirements by the Department of Health and Human Services was “arbitrary and capricious” and thus grounds for vacating the waivers. This is stated in key quotes from each state’s ruling:

Kentucky - “Because the Court finds that health is not a freestanding objective of the statute, it need go no further, since, if that is so, the Secretary’s consideration of it cannot support his § 1115 analysis. Even if health were such an objective, approving Kentucky HEALTH on this basis would still be arbitrary and capricious. The Secretary, most significantly, did not weigh health gains against coverage losses in justifying the approval. Because the provision of Medicaid coverage is indisputably a central objective of the Act, the Secretary’s consideration of the separate objective of health does not excuse him from addressing an “important aspect of the problem.””

Arkansas - “In sum, the Secretary’s approval of the Arkansas Works Amendments is arbitrary and capricious because it did not address  despite receiving substantial comments on the matter whether and how the project would implicate the “core” objective of Medicaid: the provision of medical coverage to the needy.”

Eliot Fishman, Senior Director for Health Policy at Families USA said, “Remember that Medicaid is about health care for those in need—low income families, adults, children and other vulnerable populations.  Work requirements are not consistent with that objective. While this decision will almost certainly be appealed, it sends a clear and definitive message to the states that work requirements are not permitted under federal law. The decision is based in the plain language of the Medicaid statute and it is likely to stand up on appeal.

No state should move forward with these restrictions to health coverage until all appeals have been exhausted. To deny health care to a person based on legal theories that have now been struck down by a federal court is to put at risk the health and lives of thousands of parents, families and their children. States and federal officials cannot create red tape that makes it harder for people to see their doctor.”

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