Noted Public Health Researchers File Brief in Support of Arkansas Medicaid Work Challenge

Forty public health scholars recently filed a public health “friend of the court” amicus brief in support of three Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries who are challenging the state’s Medicaid work requirements. The group included six Deans and Associate Deans at schools of public health, public policy and public administration.

The lawsuit was filed in August after Arkansas became the first state in the nation to put in place Medicaid work requirements in June. They require thousands of low-income beneficiaries to a complex series of work and reporting rules in order to receive Medicaid.

The three Arkansas Medicaid beneficiaries named in the lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, are challenging the federal government’s approval of the Arkansas Medicaid work demonstration. The lawsuit (Gresham v. Azar) seeks to block the implementation of the Arkansas Medicaid work demonstration, arguing it is contrary to law and poses major health risks for the poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

In the amicus brief, the public health researchers charge that the Trump Administration acted outside the scope of its legal authority under 1115 of the Social Security Act in allowing the state to proceed with a demonstration designed to remove potentially tens of thousands of people from the Medicaid program as part of an experimental research project. They go on to say that the administration permitted the Arkansas demonstration to launch without meeting the requirements of the experimental statute itself, including failure to put evidence-based, objective evaluation in place that could inform policymakers about the impact of the experiment on coverage, access to care or health. 

 “About 50,000 people in Arkansas are at risk of losing the protection of health insurance in the first year alone if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is permitted to proceed with an experiment designed to limit thousands of eligible people’s access to insurance,” said Lynn R. Goldman, Michael and Lori Milken Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University (GW Milken Institute SPH) and one of the public health deans joining the amicus brief.

Research estimates presented in the amicus brief for the first time show that by the end of the first full year of implementation, between 19 and 30 percent of the approximately 161,000 people subject to the state’s work requirements – between 30,700 and 48,300 – will lose coverage. 

In the amicus brief, which can be accessed here, the Deans and scholars were represented by the Washington, DC law firm of Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell, LLP.