Indiana backs off Medicaid work requirement in face of federal lawsuit

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration is temporarily suspending its requirement that certain Medicaid recipients work to receive their health care benefits pending the outcome of a federal lawsuit challenging the new requirement.

In an announcement Thursday, the state agency stated it will not enforce the mandate that designated recipients of the federal health care program report the number of hours they have worked per week. The requirement, called Gateway to Work, is touted as helping participants in the Healthy Indiana Plan connect with job training, education and assistance in finding employment or volunteer opportunities.

Those not in compliance with the work requirements could have lost their Medicaid benefits as early as January 2020.

“We remain committed to operating the Gateway to Work program and to continuing to build on the early successes of the program, through which HIP members are reporting successful engagements in their workplaces, schools and communities,” Indiana Medicaid Director Allison Taylor said in a statement.

The lawsuit challenging Indiana’s Medicaid requirements was filed by Indiana Legal Services and the National Health Law Program in September in the Southern Indiana District Court. It seeks to prevent the state from imposing not only the work requirements but also from requiring the recipients pay monthly premiums for their coverage.

The plaintiffs in Monte A. Rose Jr., et al. v. Alex M. Azar II, secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., 1:19-cv-02848, assert the Indiana Medicaid program is violating the Administrative Procedure Act, the Social Security Act, and the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Since the lawsuit was filed, the FSSA moved to intervene as a defendant.  The agency argued the lawsuit threatens to impair its legally protected interest in operating the Healthy Indiana Plan program that it has designed.

“FSSA has been thoughtful and deliberate in establishing and obtaining federal approval for a program it believes will best serve the interests of Hoosiers,” the motion stated. “FSSA’s interest in defending the validity of that program gives it a legally protected interest sufficient to justify intervention as of right.”

In its announcement, the FSSA maintained it was suspending the work requirement to allow time for the courts to resolve the Rose lawsuit and other legal challenges filed against similar programs launched in other states. Arguments in two of those other lawsuits were heard recently in the U.S. court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

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