The state’s work requirement under Medicaid expansion was the target of a federal lawsuit brought by New Hampshire Legal Assistance on Wednesday, along with the National Health Law Program and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.
The class-action suit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia was lodged on behalf of four current Medicaid clients, Samuel Philbrick, 26, of Henniker, Ian Ludders, 40, of Unity and Karin, 36, and Joshua VLK, 30, both of Laconia.
The suit maintains the Trump administration unconstitutionally changed the Medicaid expansion waiver process under Obamacare to permit New Hampshire to deny benefits for some able-bodied adults who fail to meet work or community engagement requirements.
This lawsuit piggybacked upon suits brought against Arkansas and Kentucky, other states that got Medicaid work requirement waivers from Trump’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“We know from evidence in other states and numerous studies that adding these costly and ineffective requirements will ultimately cause substantial numbers of individuals to lose access to vital health care coverage,” said Legal Assistance Policy Director Dawn McKinney.
“In Arkansas where a work requirement is being phased in, 18,000 low-income individuals and families have already lost coverage. In Kentucky, it is estimated that 95,000 people will lose Medicaid coverage if the state’s waiver plan takes effect in July.”
Gov. Chris Sununu’s office issued a strong, negative response to the suit.
“This is nothing more than a partisan national organization coming in and trying to undo a bipartisan agreement by New Hampshire lawmakers in the best interest of New Hampshire citizens,” said spokesman Benjamin Vihstadt.
“We are reviewing the lawsuit, and intervening in this lawsuit is on the table.”
The political pot thickened last month when Sununu proposed a two-year state budget that significantly cut state support for New Hampshire Legal Assistance.
What remains to be seen is how this lawsuit will complicate attempts of Democratic House and Senate leaders this spring to amend the Medicaid work requirement so that the program can’t end up knocking too many families off health care.
There’s little doubt House and Senate Democratic leaders will be able to advance their bills to Sununu’s desk.
But this lawsuit will give Sununu an even more convenient reason to respond with a veto and maintain the state shouldn’t make any changes to the program until this litigation is completed.