Law & the Courts

Judge Dismisses Kentucky Governor’s Suit against Opponents of Medicaid Work Requirements

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin addresses the crowd as they wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign stop in Louisville, Ky., March 20, 2017. (John Sommers II/Reuters)

A federal judge in Kentucky has dismissed Governor Matt Bevin’s countersuit against a group of constituents who sued to stop the implementation of new Medicaid work requirements, citing its failure to “explain how the Commonwealth would be injured” by the constituents’ suit.

Kentucky became the first state to receive a waiver from the federal government to implement work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries in January. In June, A federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled in favor of the sixteen Medicaid recipients named in Bevin’s countersuit, successfully blocking the implementation of the new policy, which would require Medicaid beneficiaries to work or volunteer. The judge found that Kentucky policymakers had failed to consider whether the new work requirements, which exempt teenagers, the disabled, and the elderly, would “help the state furnish medical assistance to its citizens, a central objective of Medicaid.”

Under the Obama administration, Kentucky added some 400,000 recipients to its Medicaid rolls, many of whom, according to Bevin, are not among those who truly require the program’s help. In the suit dismissed Monday, Bevin argued that if the activists’ efforts to block his administration’s work requirements proved successful, he would be forced to roll back Kentucky’s Medicaid program to serve fewer beneficiaries out of fiscal necessity.

But the Kentucky judge, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that the outcome of the activists’ suit could not be blamed for the program’s woes. The state of Kentucky had offered “no authority in support of its position that any future economic harm it might suffer would be traceable to Defendants,” he wrote.

Following the success of the activists’ effort to block implementation of the work requirements, Bevin temporarily revoked vision, dental, and non-emergency-transportation benefits for certain Medicaid recipients, before a public outcry forced him to reverse course.

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