Federal Judge Helps Protect People on Medicaid

Mar 28, 2019

UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice are appealing both decisions. On July 27, 2019, NAMI filed amicus briefs to support the lower-court decision to invalidate work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas.

In Kentucky and Arkansas, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled for the second time against taking Medicaid coverage away from people who do not meet work requirements. Judge James Boasberg ruled that employment conditions do not advance Medicaid’s basic purpose of providing health coverage.  “Cutting off Medicaid for people with mental illness won’t improve their mental health—or help them get or keep a job,” said Angela Kimball, NAMI National Director of Advocacy and Public Policy. “We applaud the Court’s decision.”

The judge’s decision invalidates a destructive change to Medicaid that puts people with mental health conditions at risk. Medicaid is a lifeline, providing care for 27% of people with serious mental illness. In fact, Medicaid coverage helps support recovery, making it possible for many to look for and gain employment.

NAMI supports the goal of employment and recognizes that people with mental illness are disproportionately unemployed. Unfortunately, work requirements in Medicaid don’t advance the goal of employment. Studies of work requirements have shown they do not lead to long-term, stable employment. Instead, work requirements increase state administrative costs and complexity for beneficiaries. As a result, many people with mental illness fall through the cracks and lose their coverage.

In November 2018, NAMI filed an amicus brief in the Arkansas lawsuit. In January 2019, NAMI filed an amicus brief in the Kentucky lawsuit, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, Catholic Health Association of the United States and March of Dimes. The same organizations that signed on to the Kentucky amicus brief also join NAMI in a statement applauding the judge on his decision block work requirements in both cases. NAMI is also joined by 19 other patient advocacy organizations in a statement applauding the judge on his decision to block work requirements in both cases.

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