Biden's DOJ asks Supreme Court to nix Medicaid work requirements case

Supreme Court
The Department of Justice is asking the Supreme Court to not consider an appeal over Medicaid work requirements because of a review at the Department of Health and Human Services. (Getty/BrianPIrwin)

President Joe Biden’s administration wants the Supreme Court to cancel a hearing next month on an appeal over Medicaid work requirement programs in Arkansas and New Hampshire.

The filing released Monday said that the hearing is not needed because of a review in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) questioning the waivers. The filing is part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to unwind the controversial work requirements.

Lower courts found both Arkansas and New Hampshire’s programs did not meet the objectives of Medicaid, which is to give insurance coverage to the uninsured. Appellate courts have upheld the separate rulings, hence the appeal to the Supreme Court, which was supported by the Trump administration.

On Feb. 12, HHS sent letters to the states that got a waiver to create work requirements. The agency said that it is looking into withdrawing those waivers.

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HHS said that it was worried about the potential loss of healthcare insurance in the near-term, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, no work requirement programs are up and running. Arkansas’ program did get implemented and more than 18,000 people lost coverage before a court ruling in March 2019 struck it down.

Because HHS is considering withdrawing the waivers, “these cases no longer present a suitable context” for the court to address.

The states’ arguments focus on whether HHS has the authority to approve work requirement programs and would meet the program’s objectives.

“HHS has now made a preliminary determination that allowing work-related requirements to take effect in Arkansas and New Hampshire would not promote the objectives of the Medicaid program," the legal filing said.

Biden’s DOJ wants the court to vacate the judgments of the appeals court and remanded back to HHS so the agency can complete its review of the waivers.

Court rulings have stymied the work requirements program since the Trump administration encouraged states to create them back in 2017.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved 12 state work requirement waivers, with four of them set aside by court hearings as of Feb. 16, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Another seven waivers are still pending approval by CMS.