Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries sue the Trump administration over work requirements

Amanda Michelle Gomez

Amanda Michelle Gomez Health Reporter, Think Progress

Three Arkansas residents with Medicaid health insurance are suing the Trump administration for approving an 80-hours-a-month work requirement, as the policy jeopardizes their coverage and livelihood.

This is the second lawsuit filed in federal court against the Trump administration’s work requirements. The first was against Kentucky’s, and plaintiffs scored a victory there when a federal judge temporarily blocked the 20-hours-a-week work requirement in June.

Arkansas’ work requirements took effect earlier that month — the first state to do so in the country. State officials will drop residents from Medicaid rolls if they don’t comply for three consecutive months, meaning people could lose coverage as early as September.

Tuesday’s lawsuit offers residents a chance to maintain health coverage. Already, more than 7,000 Arkansas residents have failed to report work or other volunteer opportunities online in June to meet the requirement, putting them at risk of losing their coverage.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), Legal Aid of Arkansas, and Southern Poverty Law Center in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs are suing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and senior officials who approved and implemented the Arkansas waiver. The state of Arkansas is not being sued.

“This lawsuit is the continuation of our work, with our national and state partners, to stop conservative governors from following the direction of the Trump administration to impose severe, misguided and illegal restrictions on access to Medicaid coverage,” said National Health Law Program Legal Director Jane Perkins in a statement.

The lawsuit seeks to declare the Arkansas waiver — which also eliminates retroactive coverage — illegal and block continued implementation. Plaintiffs say it violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the U.S. Constitution.

The three Medicaid beneficiaries who are suing the Trump administration are Charles Gresham, Cesar Ardon, and Marisol Ardon — and they have chronic conditions and therefore heavily depend on continuous Medicaid coverage.

37-year-old Charles Gresham suffers from a seizure disorder, an anxiety condition, and asthma, and has limited work options because he does not have his own means of transportation and his seizure disorder makes it even more difficult.

Medicaid beneficiaries can only apply for exceptions to the new requirements online, but 44-year-old Marisol Ardon found the online portal confusing and difficult. Ardon has a hernia in her stomach, thyroid problems, asthma, anxiety attacks, and chronic back pain. Because of this, she hasn’t worked since about March 2017. Still, officials say she is not exempt and needs to meet the work requirement. Seeing as she’s unable to work, she’ll likely lose coverage.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) estimates that more than 93,000 beneficiaries will be subject to the work requirement in 2018, and that 55 percent of current beneficiaries will be exempt. So far, the upfront cost of the work requirement for 2018 is nearly $800,000, and the system changes for the waiver cost nearly $7,000,000.

The requirement is currently being enforced on residents who are ages 30 to 49 years old and will expand to include those 19 to 29 years old next year. Of the residents subject to the requirement, only 445 satisfied the reporting requirement last month. The rest either failed to or where effectively exempt.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg blocked Kentucky’s slew of Medicaid changes in June, calling them “arbitrary and capricious” and concluding that officials didn’t think through the amount of people who could lose coverage. The lawsuit — also brought by NHeLP and the Southern Poverty Laws Center — was filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, despite Kentucky’s best attempt to move the lawsuit to a Kentucky federal courthouse.

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Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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