Justice Department asks Supreme Court to cancel argument in case on Trump's Medicaid work requirements

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to cancel argument in a case testing the government’s ability to approve state programs that impose a work requirement on recipients of Medicaid.

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The Trump administration approved plans by two states, Arkansas and New Hampshire, to deny coverage to poor people unless they were working, volunteering, or training for a job. Medicaid recipients in those states sued, arguing that the plans would let states kick people off Medicaid for failing to get jobs that had become scarce during the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lower courts agreed, ruling that the government did not have authority to approve such programs. The Trump administration appealed, and the case was scheduled for Supreme Court argument on March 29.

But the Justice Department said the Department of Health and Human Services under President Joe Biden is now reviewing whether it ever had such authority. For that reason, government lawyers said, the court should cancel the argument, vacate the lower court rulings and send the issue back to HHS.

Only Arkansas actually began to drop Medicaid recipients from the rolls for failing to satisfy work requirements. More than 18,000 people lost coverage. But that practice stopped last year with the onset of the pandemic and the adverse court rulings.

A law passed last March further stopped the states from imposing a work restriction. It conditioned a state’s receipt of increased Medicaid funding on maintaining existing Medicaid eligibility rules during the pandemic.

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