Following SPLC lawsuit, judge blocks Kentucky Medicaid waiver scheme

A federal judge today blocked the Trump administration’s approval of Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver plan, stating that the government acted in an “arbitrary and capricious" manner in approving the plan.

The plan included numerous illegal obstacles to accessing Medicaid health care services, such as requiring Kentucky residents to work in order to receive medical benefits.

“Medicaid has always been a crucial safety net to help those most in need get back on their feet,” said Samuel Brooke, deputy legal director for the SPLC, which in January filed a federal class action lawsuit – with its partners – against the Trump administration on behalf of Kentuckians who would lose their benefits under the waiver.

“By imposing new onerous conditions to qualify for the program, Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver effectively locks out the very people it was designed to help, in violation of the Medicaid Act,” Brooke said. “We are pleased with the court’s ruling preventing the waiver from going into effect. The ruling will help ensure that low-income individuals and families across Kentucky will continue to be able to access appropriate health care services without any undue delay.”

Kentucky’s waiver plan, called “Kentucky HEALTH,” was set to take effect on July 1. But U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg’s decision sends the plan back to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reconsider it in accordance with the Medicaid Act.

Because of the judge’s ruling, Kentuckians will continue to be able to access health care services through Medicaid.

The National Health Law Program (NHELP) and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center (KEJC) partnered with the SPLC in the class action lawsuit. The law firm Jenner & Block is representing NHELP in the lawsuit.

“Medicaid matters, and today is a victory for Medicaid, Medicaid beneficiaries, and the rule of law,” NHELP Legal Director Jane Perkins said. “The Trump administration’s attempt to transform the Medicaid program through executive action has been restrained. The purpose of the Medicaid Act is to furnish medical assistance, and this approval could not stand because it was doing just the opposite – restricting coverage.”