Biden officials move to begin rescinding Medicaid work requirements

The Biden administration on Friday moved to start the process of revoking Medicaid work requirements, one of the signature health care policies of the Trump administration that Democrats have long criticized as leading to coverage losses.

The Biden administration sent letters to states that had previously been approved for work requirements informing them that the federal government is moving to revoke the waivers that had been granted allowing the policy.

The letters from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) say the agency has “preliminarily” determined to revoke the policy and gives the states 30 days to provide information contesting the decision.

The letters state that the Biden administration “has serious concerns about testing policies that create a risk of a substantial loss of health care coverage in the near term,” and cite the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on health.

Flashback: The Trump administration allowed states to apply for, and then granted, waivers to impose work requirements in the Medicaid program for the first time, a major conservative twist on the health insurance program for the poor.

Officials, led by Trump’s Medicaid chief Seema Verma, argued the move helped lift people out of poverty. But it resulted in massive coverage losses. According to Democratic critics, that was precisely the point. Only one state, Arkansas, ever fully implemented the requirements. They were in effect for just a few months in 2018 before a judge blocked them, but 18,000 people still lost Medicaid coverage.

What’s next: The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments March 29 over whether work requirements are legal, but if they are withdrawn it could render the case moot.