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Federal Judge Invalidates Michigan’s Medicaid Work Requirements

March 10, 2020

Courtesy of MIRS

A District of Columbia-based federal judge Wednesday invalidated Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements as unlawful.

The decision came shortly before Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon’s presentation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services about how the state has spent more than $30 million as it worked to comply with the requirements in the Healthy Michigan Plan (HMP) waiver.

“The money was not well spent,” Gordon told reporters after the meeting, adding: “I don’t think work requirements promote work. There’s evidence showing this.

“In Arkansas, work requirements led to zero increase in employment,” he added. “Health insurance promotes work. Since we’ve had Healthy Michigan, those people working has increased by 6 percentage points.”

DHHS’ efforts, however, now shifts to other matters, Gordon said, in light of the court’s ruling Wednesday.

Judge James Boasberg granted the state’s motion for partial summary judgment, vacating the approval of the work and community engagement requirements in the HMP waiver in light of the U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision finding similar work requirements in Arkansas as unlawful.

Boasberg’s ruling doesn’t specifically rule to the substance of Michigan’s law, however. He said he will determine the validity of the remaining issues once both sides submit briefs.

“We are grateful for Judge Boasberg’s swift decision Wednesday, which will ensure that Michigan won’t be throwing away taxpayer money to enforce unlawful requirements and cause confusion and concern for tens of thousands of Michigan beneficiaries whose health care coverage was in limbo,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration asked for an expeditated decision on the requirements — imposed by Republican legislative leaders — in an effort to preempt the March 10 notice to more than 80,000 individuals who didn’t comply with the work requirements in January.

Wednesday, Whitmer said she is pleased with the court’s actions. She had asked the Legislature to pause the work requirements in December, but legislators did not do so, prompting the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to mail 238,000 notices to individuals subject to reporting their work activities.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, Michigan Health & Hospital Association, and House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) also praised the court’s decision.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr did not oppose the state’s motion. Whether the government will seek an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court was not immediately known.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved the work requirements as part of a Section 1115 Medicaid waiver project and the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature approved the work requirements in June 2018.

HMP participants who failed to meet the requirements for three months faced a loss of coverage.

The National Health Law Program, Center for Civil Justice and the Michigan Poverty Law Program filed the lawsuit, Young v. Azar, seeking class-action status and a declaration that the state’s HMP applications violate the Administrative Procedure and Social Security acts as well as the U.S. Constitution.

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