Virginia moves to suspend Medicaid work requirements

Virginia is moving to drop work requirements from its Medicaid program after Democrats took full control of the state legislature.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in a statement that he has instructed the state’s Medicaid director to “pause” negotiations with the Trump administration about how to implement the requirements that certain “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients need to work and pay premiums.

“Virginians made it clear they want more access to health care, not less,” he said in the statement. “Given the changed make-up of the General Assembly and based on conversations with new leadership, it is unlikely Virginia will move forward with funding a program that could cause tens of thousands of Virginians to lose health care coverage.”

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The state also sent a letter to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting that the administration pause approval of the work requirements. 

The work requirements were the key element that secured enough Republican votes for Northam to expand Medicaid coverage last year. Virginia was one of several states that initially rejected Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare, but after Democrats nearly flipped the state House in 2017, several Republicans were looking for a compromise. 

In last month’s elections, Democrats took control of the General Assembly for the first time in 26 years, making it unlikely the state would keep moving forward on work requirements.

The Trump administration has made state innovation a priority and has promised to fast-track Medicaid waivers, especially those that will impose work requirements on beneficiaries. The administration has approved 10 states so far, but has suffered a series of setbacks.

Northam also noted in his statement that other states were facing rising costs and legal challenges associated with implementing work requirements. 

A federal judge blocked implementation of work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas, and an appeals court recently seemed skeptical of the administration’s arguments in the case.

New Hampshire suspended its work requirements in July, and they were also later blocked by a judge.

Indiana said last month that it would suspend its work requirements until a lawsuit challenging them was resolved. Arizona also quietly announced the suspension of its work requirements. Both programs were slated to start as early as Jan. 1. 

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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