WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Monday asked the United States Supreme Court to overturn argument in a case testing the government’s ability to approve state programs that impose a work obligation on Medicaid recipients.
The Trump administration has approved plans by two states, Arkansas and New Hampshire, to deny coverage to poor people unless they work, volunteer, or train for a job. Medicaid recipients in those states have sued, arguing that the plans would allow states to fire Medicaid people for not getting jobs that had become scarce during the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The lower courts agreed, ruling that the government did not have the power to approve such programs. The Trump administration has appealed and the case was due to be argued in the Supreme Court on March 29.
But the Justice Department said the Department of Health and Human Services headed by President Joe Biden is now reviewing whether he ever had such authority. For this reason, government lawyers said the court should set aside the argument, overturn lower court decisions and send the matter back to HHS.
Only Arkansas has actually started removing Medicaid recipients from the lists for failing to meet work requirements. Over 18,000 people lost their coverage. But that practice stopped last year with the start of the pandemic and unfavorable court rulings.
A law passed last March further prevented states from imposing a work restriction. He made a state’s receipt of increased Medicaid funding conditional on maintaining existing Medicaid eligibility rules during the pandemic.