Jan. 24 (UPI) -- New Medicaid work requirement rules were challenged in federal court on Wednesday for the first time.
A class-action lawsuit was filed by three public-interest legal organizations on behalf of 15 Kentucky residents who are Medicaid beneficiaries. It accuses the Department of Health and Human Services of violating the purpose of the federal program by granting a request by the state of Kentucky to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.
It also charges that federal and state officials deliberately took actions to reduce access to the federal health plan for the poor.
Kentucky was the first state approved to change its Medicaid policies in an effort to reduce costs.
Earlier this month the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it would allow waivers to states demanding that some Medicaid recipients prove they are working, training for work or engaged in volunteer work as a condition of receiving coverage.
About 350,000 residents, of 1.3 million receiving Medicaid coverage in Kentucky, would be subject to the work requirement. Nine other states have requested similar waivers to allow changes to their Medicaid programs.
"If you read what the purpose of Medicaid is, it's to get people engaged and to create work opportunities," Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Ky., told Bloomberg News in a Jan. 16 interview. "When Medicaid was originally designed, it was designed to help assimilate disabled people back into society to the absolute extent possible, to create work opportunities. These are some of the underlying tenets of Medicaid for the traditional Medicaid population."
The outcome of the case will likely influence the approaches of the other states seeking waivers, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday.
"The purpose of Medicaid is to provide medical insurance to people who cannot afford it, not to create barriers to coverage," said Anne Marie Regan of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, one of the organizations bring the suit in Washington, D.C., federal court. "Demonstration waivers are supposed to make access to healthcare easier. This approval does the opposite. It is not only in violation of Medicaid law but is immoral."