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Medicaid’s Repeal of Georgia Work Requirements Found Unlawful (1)

Aug. 19, 2022, 8:49 PMUpdated: Aug. 19, 2022, 9:40 PM

Georgia can impose work requirements as a condition of Medicaid eligibility after a federal district court held the Biden administration’s withdrawal of approval for those requirements was arbitrary and capricious.

The decision allows the state to move forward with its Georgia Pathways plan, which it says would add roughly 60,000 people to its Medicaid rolls. It’s also a setback for the administration’s efforts to nix work requirements.

The Department of Health and Human Services “failed to consider or weigh the (likely) possibility that rescinding Pathways would mean less Medicaid coverage in Georgia,” Judge Lisa Godbey Wood of the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia wrote in a Friday order.

The HHS under the Trump administration approved Georgia’s proposal in October 2020 as part of a broader plan to expand eligibility to include adults with incomes up to 100% of the federal poverty level. The proposal requires applicants to complete at least 80 hours a month of work, education, volunteer work, or other qualifying activities. Applicants who earn more than 50% of the poverty line would have to pay a premium.

The agency under Biden, in December 2021, told the state it couldn’t impose work requirements beyond what the Medicaid statute allowed. Georgia followed with a lawsuit, calling it a “regulatory bait and switch.”

The court Friday vacated the HHS’s rescission of its approval for the work requirements. The rescission “is based on fundamental errors that, at minimum, cast real doubt on whether the Agency made the right decision,” the order said.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Georgia v. Brooks-LaSure, S.D. Ga., No. 2:22-cv-00006, 8/19/22.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Allie Reed in Washington at areed@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com