State efforts to impose work requirements for Medicaid benefits is subject of lawsuit

Under the federal Medicaid statute 42 USC 1396__ there is a provision called “Section 1115 waiver” which is designed to enable States to try out variations on their Medicaid programs to reach broader segments of the population. The pertinent section of the Waiver is:  QUOTE HERE

In mid-January this year, CMS announced a policy in which it authorized States to develop programs that would require certain Medicaid-eligible persons (non-elderly, non-disabled, non-pregnant adults) to be employed or to participate in ‘community engagement activities” such as skills training, education, volunteering, job-searching or caregiving, as a condition for ongoing receipt of Medicaid insurance benefits. Ten states have responded to date. The first such waiver request that was approved is Kentucky’s. Poor adults must be work or person community engagement activity  20 hours a week to retain their health insurance under Medicaid. Kentucky is also imposing cash premium obligations on these Medicaid recipients, copayments for non-emergency use of an emergency room, and elimination of payment for non-emergency medical transportation. No doubt a significant increase in the State’s Medicaid bureaucracy will be required to create or implement all of these community engagement programs and to monitor the participation and prevent erroneous terminations of benefits. I wonder if the cost of all that has been compared to the cost of the lost Medicaid benefits.

The Kentucky waiver has been challenged in federal district court. There are 15 individual plaintiffs who are adversely affected by the new requirements. Click HERE for discussion and details. A major basis for the challenge is that the CMS invited and approved waiver requests that violate the purpose and objectives of the Medicaid Act that were articulated by Congress. The critical requirements for Medicaid eligibility have been resources, income limits, settings for delivery of services, and in many cases, transfer penalties. Under the existing statute, which is part of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of CMS can waive a state’s compliance with certain Medicaid requirements when a State proposes an “experimental, pilot, or demonstration project which, in the judgment of the Secretary is likely to assist in promoting the objectives of” the medicaid program. Stated another way, a Waiver needs to further the objectives of the Act, not reduce the availability of services to otherwise-eligible individuals. NAME OF SUPREME COURT CASE?? So, for example, States have implemented Home and Community-based Services or Assisted Living services under the Medicaid waiver, or have enabled people whose income exceeded three times the federal poverty limit (the “income cap”) to receive Medicaid services.

The new process appears to be encouraging States to come up with ways to restrict the number of needy people who can receive Medicaid health care benefits. The obligations will be onerous or impossible for some people. A person may have no control over his/her ability to secure 21+ hours of employment. A person with a poor employment history and limited skills may find it impossible to find community volunteer work.

There’s no indication that New Jersey is pursuing any of these onerous obligations. We shall see what emerges on the national front.

 

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