July 29, 2019 / 6:35 PM / 4 months ago

U.S. judge blocks Medicaid work requirements in New Hampshire

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday overturned the Trump administration’s approval of a plan by the state of New Hampshire to impose work requirements on people seeking to obtain benefits from the Medicaid health insurance program.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., came after the judge earlier this year blocked the Republican-led states of Arkansas and Kentucky from moving forward with similar plans.

The three states are among nine that have received approval from the U.S. Department and Health and Human Services under Republican President Donald Trump to impose requirements that people seeking coverage under Medicaid engage in work or job training.

But Boasberg said that, as with the plans by Arkansas and Kentucky, HHS had failed to contend with the possibility that New Hampshire’s proposal might cause a substantial number of people to lose healthcare coverage.

“In short, we have all seen this movie before,” he said.

The Trump administration is appealing Boasberg’s earlier rulings in the Arkansas and Kentucky cases and is expected to appeal the New Hampshire ruling as well.

Johnathan Monroe, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of HHS, in a statement said it “will continue to defend our efforts to give states greater flexibility to help low income Americans rise out of poverty.”

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, in a statement called the ruling “disappointing” but said he was “confident that New Hampshire’s work requirement will ultimately be upheld.”

The ruling came in a lawsuit by four New Hampshire residents who alleged HHS had not followed proper rulemaking procedures in approving the state’s plan. The proposal required a waiver from HHS of requirements under the joint federal-state Medicaid program.

HHS approved the states’ projects as part of a push to put a conservative stamp on Medicaid, which expanded in 36 states following the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare after former Democratic President Barack Obama.

New Hampshire, which expanded Medicaid under the ACA in 2014, had sought HHS approval to require people receiving benefits to engage in at least 100 hours monthly of employment or other qualifying activities.

HHS approved New Hampshire’s plan in November, finding the state’s proposal promoted Medicaid’s goals as it would improve its fiscal sustainability.

The state recently delayed implementing the work requirement until Sept. 30 after officials learned around 17,000 people were set to lose coverage because they did not comply with its rules.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang and Tom Brown

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