Judge Strikes Down Medicaid Work Rules in Michigan

(CN) – Less than a month after the D.C. Circuit struck down Arkansas’ work requirements for recipients of Medicaid, a federal judge in the nation’s capital invalidated Michigan’s same rules for the health care program.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, a Barack Obama appointee, granted summary judgment to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, allowing it to terminate a “work and community engagement” requirement for Medicaid recipients. The ruling came in the form of a short docket order Wednesday.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

The program required some Medicare recipients to document 80 hours of work, community service, education or job searching each month, and was allowed under a controversial waiver granted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That waiver was announced in 2018, during the waning months of outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s term. The federal agency approved the waiver in December, and it came into effect at the beginning of this year.

The administration of Michigan’s current governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, filed an action to have the provision thrown out last year. Whitmer has been outspoken on her opposition to the requirements, calling them wasteful and expressing concern about the number of recipients who could lose coverage.

The requirements apply to Medicaid beneficiaries aged 19 to 62 who are not covered by any of the program’s exemptions, which included parents of children under 6, those released from prison within the last six months and full-time students.

In its motion for summary judgment against U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Michigan’s state agency cited the D.C. Circuit’s Feb. 14 ruling that struck down Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirements.

The federal appeals court found the rules contrary to the purpose of the statute that created the program– namely, to provide greater access to health care. The Trump administration, it said, had already admitted that Michigan’s program was not materially different from the Arkansas program challenged in that case, Gresham v. Azar.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also noted the costs it was incurring by enforcing the requirements and the fact that 80,000 Michigan residents had failed to meet them in January and stood to lose their Medicaid coverage.

The state agency’s director, Robert Gordon, wrote in a court declaration that he worried over 100,000 of Michigan’s 650,000 Medicaid beneficiaries could lose their coverage for at least one month in 2020.

“More time and stress for Michiganders complying with reporting requirements, more energy from our staff and partners implementing them, and more than $1 million each month funding these efforts, on top of more than $30 million spent already—all of this is going to be wasted,” Gordon told reporters late in February. He called enforcement of the work requirements “an unproductive exercise.”

In his docket order, Boasberg said the court would determine the validity of the remainder of the federal waiver approval after further briefing.

%d bloggers like this: