Federal officials filed notice Wednesday that they will appeal a federal judge's rulings last month that struck down Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also filed notice that the state will mount its own appeal of the ruling affecting Arkansas.
In the March 27 rulings in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Judge James Boasberg found that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in approving work requirements in the two states, violated the law governing Medicaid by failing to consider the effect such requirements would have on the program's goal of providing heath coverage to needy people.
The ruling in Arkansas' case preserved coverage for 5,492 Arkansas Works enrollees who did not meet the work requirement for January and February and had not yet met it for March when the ruling was issued.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson had urged President Donald Trump's administration to appeal the ruling. A Health and Human Services Department spokesman said a decision on the matter was up to the Department of Justice, which represents the health agency in the case.
In a statement Wednesday, Hutchinson said he was "very pleased" with the Justice Department's decision to file the appeal, which will go to the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
"I expect the Department of Justice to also ask for an expedited appeal, which is something I requested that the Department of Justice and HHS do immediately following Judge Boasberg's decision," Hutchinson said.
"An expedited timeline from such an appeal should put this case in the position to get to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary, in a timely fashion."
As an intervening party in the case, Arkansas didn't have standing to file an appeal unless the Trump Administration also appealed, Hutchinson has said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of three groups that challenged Arkansas' work requirement on behalf of several enrollees, is "confident [Boasberg's] well-reasoned opinion in this case will stand," Sam Brooke, the organization's deputy legal director, said in a statement.
"The Trump Administration is wrong on the law," Brooke said.
Arkansas was the first state to add a work requirement to its Medicaid program. It was phased in last year and in January for Arkansas Works enrollees ages 30-49 and was being added this year for those ages 19-29.
The requirement covers adults with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level who became eligible for Medicaid under the state's expansion of the program in 2014 under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
To stay in compliance, enrollees had to spend 80 hours a month on work or other approved activities, unless they qualified for an exemption, and report what they did using a state website or over the phone.
Those who failed to meet the requirement for three months during a year were kicked off the program and barred from re-enrolling for the rest of the year.
Last year and in January, the state terminated coverage for 18,164 enrollees who accumulated three months of noncompliance in 2018.
Boasberg had struck down Kentucky's requirement once before, in June, for the same reason he voided it last month.
Rather than appeal that ruling, which prevented the requirement from going into effect in July, the Health and Human Services Department solicited a new round of public comments on the plan and issued a new approval letter in November for Kentucky to proceed.
According to the San Francisco-based Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research organization, seven other states have also received federal approval to add work requirements to their Medicaid programs, including requirements that have taken effect in New Hampshire and Indiana.
Six other states have applied for approval to add similar requirements to their programs.
Metro on 04/11/2019
Print Headline: State, U.S. to challenge Medicaid rules' rejection