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CMS reopens comment period for Kentucky's Medicaid expansion waiver for work requirements

The move will gain additional stakeholder feedback after judge's ruling for additional review.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has reopened the comment period on Kentucky's request to mandate work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries, following a June 29 federal court ruling that sent the case back to the Department of Health and Human Services for review.

CMS has reopened the 30-day federal public comment period through August 18, according to its posted notice.

The move is seen as an effort to overcome the judge's objections by getting additional stakeholder feedback.

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The lawsuit against requiring able-bodied Medicaid beneficiaries to work was brought by advocacy groups on behalf of Ronnie Maurice Stewart and 15 other Medicaid enrollees in Kentucky against HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

In his ruling, District Court Judge James Boasberg sent the case back to HHS for review, saying the department never adequately considered whether the work requirements would meet Medicaid's goal of providing medical assistance to its citizens.

"In light of the district court's decision in Stewart v. Azar ... we are inviting additional comments on Kentucky's demonstration project 'Kentucky Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health' and its component parts, including the Kentucky HEALTH program," CMS said in its notice. "Although an additional public comment period is not legally required, CMS is conducting one to ensure that interested stakeholders have an opportunity to comment on the issues raised in the litigation and in the court's decision."

The judge's decision barring work requirements will not stop the Trump administration from considering similar requests for waivers to the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion program, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said last week at a POLITICO Pro summit.

Three other states - Arkansas, Indiana and New Hampshire - have received federal approval for work requirements and other states have submitted waiver requests.

The Trump administration's promotion of waivers for work requirements will reduce the number of people covered under Medicaid, opponents have said. Those in favor say the Medicaid program was never intended to be expanded to cover such a wide range of beneficiaries.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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