Judge James E. Boasberg, a U.S. District Court Judge, has issued a ruling striking down New Hampshire’s Medicaid work requirement. The same judge also issued the same ruling bringing an end to work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. The Trump administration has approved work requirements for seven states, but only three of those states have implemented them; all three have now been blocked in court.
The first of Boasberg’s rulings came in June 2018, when he initially struck down Kentucky’s work requirement plan. Kentucky claimed to have made adjustments to the requirements, but it was struck down yet again in March 2019. The most recent decision blocking New Hampshire’s work requirement came last week.
What Are Medicaid Work Requirements?
Work requirements were not allowed under the Obama administration, but the Trump administration has instituted a policy that allows states to implement a work requirement in order for those eligible to receive Medicaid benefits. Medicaid work requirements are quite straightforward: if you are between the ages of 19 and 64, you must work 100 hours per month, volunteer 100 hours per month, or be in school in order to receive Medicaid benefits.
Proponents of Medicaid work requirements, such as Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, argue that the requirement encourages people to break the cycle of poverty and encourages them to become independent. They also allege that requiring people to work for Medicaid would free up more resources for those who need it, as it would increase the number of people being insured through their new employment and no longer in need of Medicaid.
Opponents of the measure argue that most of those who can work while receiving Medicaid already work. They also claim that there are people with children or taking care of ill family members that simply cannot work. Additionally, withholding medical benefits from citizens because they can’t work 100 hours per month is an unattainable expectation. In New Hampshire, for example, many employees work seasonally, meaning they do landscaping in the summer and shovel snow in the winter. But, that would make it difficult for them to show 100 hours of employment in November.
The Legal Battle
Although both sides have their talking points, according to the Judge, it comes down to the fact that the work requirement goes against the whole point of Medicaid – to provide medical coverage. He also mentioned the fact that 80% of those who were subject to a work requirement in Arkansas, while the state’s requirement was in effect, were dropped from Medicaid. Some did not understand the new requirement and many didn’t have the Internet access required to submit their proof of employment.
The Trump administration has two choices: it can appeal the Judge’s ruling or it can reexamine New Hampshire’s requirement and bring it into compliance with the ruling.