The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether the federal government can approve state programs that force Medicaid participants to work, go to school, or volunteer to get benefits. Both Arkansas and the Justice Department sought review of the issue. Epstein Becker Green attorney Clifford Barnes provides potential paths for the Biden administration to best position itself in the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case involving the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services to approve Medicaid work requirements programs in Arkansas and New Hampshire that were struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The high court has agreed to determine whether the HHS can allow states to impose work requirements in its Medicaid program even though all lower courts ruled against HHS’s approval of states’ Section 1115 work requirement waivers, based on the Trump administration’s refusal to consider the impact of the waivers on the core purpose of Medicaid—which is to increase health insurance coverage.
Unlike the narrow question considered by the lower courts, however, the court granted certiorari on a much broader issue. The question presented concerns the entire Section 1115 process and asks whether the HHS secretary has the power to establish additional purposes for Medicaid, beyond coverage.
Should the court rule that the HHS secretary does indeed possess this unbounded power, the entire Section 1115 landscape could shift, potentially allowing states to implement waivers like Arkansas, so long as they meet such additional purpose.
The case establishes an effective deadline for the Biden administration to take action to mitigate or eliminate the work requirements, in light of the administration’s commitment to expanding, rather than rolling back, Medicaid insurance coverage.