Two groups sue over Indiana’s work requirements for Medicaid recipients

Indiana’s plan to require tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients to find a job, volunteer, get career training or go to school is being challenged by two legal advocacy groups.

Indiana Legal Services and the National Health Law program filed suit Friday, saying the new requirements could jettison thousands of people from medical coverage.

Named as defendants were the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

“The requirements put an extra burden on Medicaid eligibility that jeopardizes the health coverage of our clients and thousands of other vulnerable individuals,” said Adam Mueller, director of advocacy at Indiana Legal Services.

In 2018, the federal government approved Indiana’s request to impose work or other requirements as a condition of coverage for adults under the Healthy Indiana Plan, the state’s biggest Medicaid program, which covers more than 400,000 low-income people.

Starting in July, recipients have been required to find a job, volunteer or participate in other qualifying activities. The requirements are being phased in over a full year, beginning with five hours of work a week, and building up to 20 hours by July 2020.

The program, called “Gateway to Work,” contains numerous exemptions, including people over 60, caregivers of dependent children, incapacitated people, and those in treatment for substance abuse. State officials have estimated that 85,000 people on the program would have to work, volunteer or go to school.

Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, which administers the state’s Medicaid program, told IBJ last year the program is meant to “help people think about things that they might never have really considered as options before.”

She said the goal is for not a single person to lose coverage, although HIP enrollees who fail to meet the job requirements or forget to record their hours could lose benefits for several months.

This is the fourth federal lawsuit challenging a Medicaid waiver project with a work requirement approved by the federal government. Rulings have blocked work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire.

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