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Citing 'Deprivation' They Would Cause, Federal Judge Blocks Kentucky's Trump-Backed Medicaid Work Requirements

"Today's win means that nearly 100,000 Kentucky residents will continue to be able to see their doctors, stay healthy, and take care of their families."

Medicaid Kentucky

"This is a victory for the people of Kentucky who rely on Medicaid for life-saving healthcare," Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, said in a statement on Friday. (Photo: ACLU)

Kentucky's Medicaid work requirements—which were enabled and enthusiastically approved by the Trump administration—would have stripped healthcare from around 100,000 people, but a federal judge on Friday decided to block the new restrictions from taking effect, arguing that the White House's approval of the rules did not adequately account for the "deprivation" they would cause.

"Most Medicaid enrollees that are not elderly or disabled are in families that are working. Let's stop perpetuating stereotypes and stop trying to take health care away from families."
—Frederick Isasi, Families USA

"This is a victory for the people of Kentucky who rely on Medicaid for life-saving healthcare," Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, said in a statement on Friday. "Most Medicaid enrollees that are not elderly or disabled are in families that are working. Let's stop perpetuating stereotypes and stop trying to take health care away from families."

"These work mandates and lockout provisions are not about helping people get jobs—they're about kicking people off the Medicaid program," Isasi concluded. "Today's win means that nearly 100,000 Kentucky residents will continue to be able to see their doctors, stay healthy, and take care of their families. And it should give pause to the Trump administration, Kentucky, and other states seeking illegal and harmful Medicaid changes that take healthcare away from families."

The judge's ruling on Friday stems from a class action lawsuit filed by 15 Kentucky Medicaid recipients, who argued that the work requirements pushed by the state government and the Trump administration—which were set to go into effect on Sunday—would cause "irreparable harm to the health and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable."

In his ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg determined that the Trump administration's approval of Kentucky's rules was "arbitrary and capricious," and ordered them sent back to the Department of Health and Human Services for further review.

As Common Dreams reported, the Trump administration issued guidance in January that allowed states to apply for a waiver to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients for the first time in the program's history. Kentucky was the first state to have its waiver approved by the White House.

Denounced by health policy experts and progressives as part of the Trump administration's "relentless assault" on the safety net, the policy guidance opened the floodgates for a number of red states to request work requirement waivers, including Arkansas, Indiana, and Mississippi.

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