The Trump administration on Thursday said it would continue approving Medicaid work requirement requests from states, despite a district court ruling last month that blocked such requirements in Kentucky.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the ruling was a “blow” to the administration’s efforts to encourage work among “able-bodied” adults in the Medicaid program, but said he is “undeterred” and proceeding forward.”
“We are fully committed to work requirements and community participation requirements in the Medicaid program,” Azar said at a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday morning.
“We will continue to litigate, we will continue to approve plans, we are continuing to work with states, and we’ll drive forward.”
He added the administration would take what it learned from the court’s decision, even though it disagrees with it.
In June, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled the Trump administration’s approval of Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements “arbitrary and capricious.” The requirements are part of the state’s Kentucky HEALTH initiative.
In approving the work requirement proposal, Azar “never adequately considered whether Kentucky HEALTH would in fact help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.”
Last week, the administration announced it would reopen a new 30-day comment period on Kentucky’s plan.
The move could allow the administration to show that it is giving further consideration to concerns about the proposal.
Approving work requirements for Medicaid, specifically for the low-income adults who received coverage through ObamaCare’s expansion, has been a top priority for the Trump administration.
Reopening the comment period shows the administration is trying to chart a path forward, rather than backing down after a setback in court.
Azar’s comments Thursday are the most forceful comments he’s made after the ruling, indicating the administration has no plans to abandon one of it’s top priorities.
During a question and answer session with Heritage President Kay Coles James, Azar said the administration tries to be “sensible” when approving work requirements, and that it’s not some “crazy, unreasonable thing.”
“If you can’t get a job — people don’t talk about this — the programs we approved, you can volunteer. Just 20 hours of volunteer work. It doesn’t have to be getting a job. It can be getting education as part of it. It can be childcare — it can be taking care of a child.”
BY JESSIE HELLMANN – 07/26/18