This time, the DC Circuit Court has erred. The Trump administration—Health and Human Services—had allowed Arkansas, among other States, to set work requirements on its citizens as prerequisites to eligibility for the State’s Medicaid program. Folks and organizations sued over that, and the case wound up in the DC Circuit Court. That Court held with the suers and has blocked Arkansas from proceeding with the work requirements.
Writing for the Court, Senior Circuit Judge David Sentelle held, in part, that HHS didn’t address the purpose of Medicaid in a way that suited him:
to provide health care coverage to populations that otherwise could not afford it….
Sentelle wrote further,
The means that Congress selected to achieve the objectives of Medicaid was to provide health care coverage to populations that otherwise could not afford it.
To an extent, Arkansas and the government characterize the Secretary’s approval letter [allowing Arkansas’ work requirements] as also identifying transitioning beneficiaries away from governmental benefits through financial independence or commercial coverage as an objective promoted by Arkansas Works.
Sentelle then wrote that Azar’s approval letter did not discuss this aspect of the matter, either. That, though, is because it’s so blindingly obvious that explicitly writing, in effect, “this, too,” would have been merely redundant.
Of course, HHS did properly account for the principal purpose. Requiring efforts to work or to learn work skills directly accounts for Medicaid’s principal purpose, by helping folks become able to afford health-care coverage and so no longer be part of those “populations that otherwise could not afford it.”
The ruling needs to be appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Supremes need to uphold HHS’ requirement.
The DC Circuit messed up.