Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has had his lawsuit against a group of his own citizens dismissed. U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove sided with a group of local Medicaid recipients in their fight against Bevin’s plan to impose work requirements on individuals who are receiving health coverage through Medicaid in Kentucky. Governor Bevin filed a lawsuit against the group of low-income residents as part of a broader effort to impose new limits on Medicaid in the state.
Bevin ran for office on the promise that he would roll back Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. The program was expanded during a previous administration using funding provided through the federal Affordable Care Act. By expanding Medicaid, Kentucky was able to provide health insurance for several hundred thousand residents. When Bevin took office, he set about imposing new restrictions on how and when benefits could be used. He set up a “rewards” program that would allow Kentuckians to accumulate points toward things like vision and dental care by volunteering, taking online classes, paying premiums or working. In June, a different federal judge blocked the work requirements program noting that Bevin failed to understand the fundamental principles on which Medicaid was created.
Shortly after losing that court battle, Bevin announced that he was cutting vision and dental benefits for some Medicaid recipients – a decision that impacted 500,000 Kentuckians.
In his latest lawsuit, Bevin argued that the group of Medicaid recipients fighting to retain their earned benefits were interfering with state business. Judge Tatenhove dismissed the suit and the argument referring the governor back to the case he lost in June. He further said that the government failed to present sufficient evidence that the state was being harmed by its own citizens.
Bevin has said that if he doesn’t eventually prevail in court he will end all coverage provided through the expanded Medicaid program.
Bevin’s failure in court may also be spurring on a court challenge filed last week in Arkansas. Arkansas is trying to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients as well. The work rules, which look similar to what Bevin tried, say that Medicaid recipients must work 80 hours per month. Work can include volunteering. All work has to be reported online in order to maintain benefits. The rules took effect in June, but the lawsuit is seeking an injunction saying that the requirements violate the principles of the Medicaid program and the Constitution. The suit has been filed in the same court that blocked Kentucky’s attempt. Watch this space.