Trump HHS Approves Arkansas’s Work Requirements in Medicaid

Trump HHS Approves Arkansas’s Work Requirements in Medicaid

Waiver Allows State to Impose Burdensome Requirements on Medicaid Enrollees

Washington – The Trump administration has approved Arkansas’s request to implement burdensome, costly, and legally suspect work requirements.

As with recent approvals in Kentucky and Indiana, the National Health Law Program’s (NHeLP) Legal Director Jane Perkins questioned the legality of the action in Arkansas.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ action is legally troubling for several reasons,” Perkins said. “Federal law gives the HHS Secretary only limited power to waive provisions of the Medicaid Act. The Secretary can only enable states to carry out experimental projects that are likely to further objectives of Medicaid. Approving Arkansas’s work requirement, which mandates that enrollees document efforts to complete the work requirements or lose health care, appears well outside the bounds of the limited authority granted to the Secretary.” Perkins added, “The state’s work requirement program, beyond being legally suspect, will disproportionately harm the most underserved populations.”

Focusing on Arkansas’s work requirement, NHeLP Senior Attorney Elizabeth Edwards said there are reasons why HHS, until the Trump administration, had refused to approve work requirements.

“Studies examining the effects of work requirements in other programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), show that individuals with physical and mental health conditions are disproportionately likely to be sanctioned for not completing the work requirement,” Edwards said.

NHeLP’s Health Policy Director Leonardo Cuello criticized Trump for furthering callous health care policy, noting that work requirements in Medicaid get it exactly backwards.

“Abundant research proves that Medicaid coverage helps people obtain and keep jobs,” Cuello said. “Arkansas like Kentucky and Indiana are turning the purpose of Medicaid on its head by building new barriers to health care and the pathway to securing and keeping work.”

See NHeLP’s comments to HHS about Arkansas’ Medicaid waiver project here and here.

Please contact the NHeLP Communications department at leaming@healthlaw.org or 202-552-5176 to speak with Edwards, Perkins, or Cuello for additional comments and resources.

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