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Federal judge invalidates Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) – A federal judge on Wednesday invalidated Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements, weeks after a U.S. appeals court affirmed his decision to strike down similar rules elsewhere.

The short order came from U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C. He had earlier invalidated Arkansas’ requirement that low-income people work for government-provided health insurance, dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to remake Medicaid.

Four Michigan residents sued the federal government in November, with assistance from advocacy groups.

Prior to the ruling, the state had been preparing to notify more than 80,000 enrollees in Michigan’s Medicaid expansion program that they did not comply with reporting requirements for January and would lose their coverage on May 31 if they did not report for February and March. The state had 674,000 expansion participants as of November.

Boasberg cited the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration had asked for a quick ruling, saying there was no dispute Michigan’s requirements are illegal, too.

Many participants in Healthy Michigan — the state’s Medicaid expansion program — were exempt from the rules, which also do not apply to the more than 1.7 million state residents covered by the traditional Medicaid program.

Starting Jan. 1, able-bodied adults ages 19 through 61 who want to maintain their benefits had to show workforce engagement averaging 80 hours a month under a 2018 law — through work, school, job training or vocational training, an internship, substance abuse treatment or community service.

Republican legislative leaders have defended the rules that were signed into law in 2018 by then-GOP Gov. Rick Snyder. House Speaker Lee Chatfield, of Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, of Clarklake, have said Michigan taxpayers expect able-bodied adults wanting cash assistance and subsidized health coverage to work part-time or at least prepare for a career.

Though nine states have had Medicaid work requirement waivers approved by the Trump administration, Michigan was the only one with rules in effect. Boasberg previously blocked the requirements in Kentucky, Arkansas and New Hampshire; and two other states, Arizona and Indiana, have blocked enforcement or implementation, citing litigation.

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