BACKLASH

Trump Administration Sued for ‘Irreparable’ Medicaid Harm

After Kentucky was given permission to institute a new Medicaid work requirement.

Kevin Lamarque

Multiple advocacy organizations on Wednesday filed suit against the Trump administration for giving Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin permission to institute work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries.

The National Health Law Program, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center banded together to file the class-action federal lawsuit in a Washington, D.C. court, with multiple federal health-care officials named as defendants.

“The medical needs of these individuals are profound,” Samuel Brooke, Deputy Legal Director of the Economic Justice Project at SPLC told The Daily Beast. “No one should be denied access to meaningful health care.”

He said that they are hopeful for a decision in the courts prior to July 1, when the new requirements are supposed to go into full effect.

The lawsuit argues that the new plan essentially goes against the very tenets of what Medicaid is intended to do.

“Purporting to invoke a narrow statutory waiver authority that allows experimental projects ‘likely to assist in promoting the objectives’ of Medicaid, the Executive Branch has instead effectively rewritten the statute, bypassing congressional restrictions, overturning a half century of administrative practice, and threatening irreparable harm to the health and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable in our country,” read the lawsuit, reviewed Wednesday by The Daily Beast.

There are 15 plaintiffs named in the suit, some as young as 20 years old and some as old as 62. All are on Medicaid in Kentucky and risk losing coverage because of the new requirements.

Plaintiff Glassie Mae Kasey, a 56-year-old woman who lives in Louisville, attended community college but was not able to finish as she had to work to support herself, the suit claims. Kasey was working at Sullivan University as a custodian until mid-September 2017. She requested an accommodation after she hurt her shoulder and lost her job as a result.

“Medicaid has been helping me for so many reasons," Kasey told The Daily Beast. "It gives me an opportunity to get myself together.”

She said that she really wants to work and has a number of health problems including diabetes and arthritis in her hands.

"Sometimes when you bend your hands, bending my thumbs, they get stuck," Kasey said describing the problem. Just today, she said she got a shot in her thumb to ease the condition.

Another plaintiff named in the suit, 62-year-old Ronnie Maurice Stewart, allegedly retired because he could not stand on his feet any longer for work. He also suffers from diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure.

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“Medicaid paid for his cataract surgery, which kept him from going blind,” the suit reads. “He is concerned that he will lose his health coverage if he is unable to work because of his health or if he takes a job with varying work hours,” the suit continued.

“In addition, Mr. Stewart will be at risk of being locked out of Medicaid coverage if he is unable to file or fails to file required reports, including reports within ten days about changes in his income that would affect eligibility. Mr. Stewart is worried he will end up with unpaid medical bills.”

Kentucky became the first state to impose a work requirement for its Medicaid program a few weeks ago.

Nine more states—including Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Utah, and Kansas—are waiting for approvals for their specific waiver requests with various kinds of requirements.