The Trump administration made changes to the federal Medicaid program that threatened to strip health insurance away from millions of low-income people.
The Trump policy allows states to seek “waivers” of federal rules – essentially permitting states to place onerous new conditions on poor people that they must meet before receiving medical benefits. Kentucky was the first state to obtain such a waiver.
The SPLC filed a federal, class-action lawsuit on behalf of 15 Kentucky residents who are enrolled in Medicaid. The lawsuit alleges that federal health officials who approved Kentucky’s plan acted illegally and in conflict with federal law that only Congress can change. It is the first lawsuit that has been brought to challenge a Trump administration Medicaid waiver approval.
Kentucky was among the states that expanded Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But that was before the Tea Party-supported Gov. Matt Bevin took office in 2015.
After the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved Kentucky’s waiver in January, Bevin promptly signed an executive order calling for the end of the state’s Medicaid expansion if the waiver is ruled illegal. The move was seen as an attempt to bully Medicaid recipients into accepting the change without challenging it in court.
The plaintiffs represent Kentuckians from all walks of life who rely on Medicaid for their health care. They reside in all parts of the state, and are active in various ways in their communities.
They include a minister (who is also a mortician), a church administrator, a mechanic, a musician, a retired health care worker, and students, caregivers, house cleaners, a bank teller and housekeepers for a health care center and a university. The plaintiffs have a variety of health care concerns, from high blood pressure, diabetes and mental health problems to poor vision and dental problems.
Under the approved waiver, they are all in danger of losing Medicaid coverage.