Charles Gresham has had trouble finding and keeping work because of issues related to his seizures. He received a notice from the state of Arkansas that if he did not meet a requirement to work 20 hours a week, he would lose his Medicaid coverage. When he tried to report his work hours to the state, he had trouble navigating the state Medicaid website – the only place where work hours are accepted. The SPLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of Gresham and other Arkansas residents, challenging the federal government’s approval of Arkansas’ request for work requirements as a condition of health coverage under Medicaid.
The approval of Arkansas’ request for Medicaid work requirements will lead to thousands of low-income individuals and families losing access to vital health care, the SPLC lawsuit states.
Cesar Ardon, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, was a welder for 15 years before he had surgery in 2017 to remove a baseball-sized tumor over his right ribs. He has used Medicaid for treatment related to his tumor and other health problems including arthritis, vision issues, carpal tunnel and high cholesterol.
Working as a self-employed handyman, Ardon has unpredictable work hours. Sometimes, he gets up to 20 hours a week. But when the work slows down – particularly in the fall and winter – his hours dwindle. He, too, was notified that he would lose his Medicaid benefits unless he could show that he works at least 20 hours a week. He met the work requirement in July, but with spotty internet access, he was unable to log onto the state Medicaid online portal to report his work hours.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the U.S. Constitution and federal laws when it approved the Arkansas Medicaid work requirement, according to the Aug. 14, 2018 lawsuit.
On Nov. 5, 2018, the SPLC filed an amended complaint adding the experiences of more individuals facing loss of coverage, including plaintiffs Adrian McGonigal and Jamie Deyo, who are but two of the 8,400 people who have lost coverage thus far. The SPLC also charged U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II with exceeding his authority on the Medicaid waiver, and undermining the Affordable Care Act that expanded Medicaid.
The SPLC also filed a request for summary judgment on Nov. 5, 2018, asking the court to strike down the Medicaid work requirement by arguing that the federal government did not follow proper procedure and exceeded its authority in imposing a work requirement on access to Medicaid coverage for low-income people.
On March 27, 2019, the federal district court blocked Arkansas’ work requirement waiver and granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs.The federal government, and the state of Arkansas which has intervened as a defendant, appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.