New Hampshire residents sue over Medicaid work requirements

March 20, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Low-income New Hampshire residents sued the federal government Wednesday over the state’s work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

The National Health Law Program, New Hampshire Legal Assistance and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice filed the lawsuit behalf of a 26-year-old sporting goods store cashier from Henniker, a 40-year-old who does seasonal work and lives off the land in Unity and a Laconia couple with three children.

New Hampshire expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act in 2014 to include adults making up to 138 percent of the poverty level. The state initially used federal money to put participants on private insurance but, in reauthorizing the program last year, changed to a managed care model and added the work requirements.

The rules approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that take effect later this year would require most recipients to spend at least 100 hours a month working, going to school or participating in community service. There would be exemptions for parents of young children, people with disabilities and others.

Similar requirements are facing court challenges in Kentucky and Arkansas.

While supporters argue that work requirements helps participants achieve self-sufficiency, critics say they could jeopardize health care for hardworking people who may be struggling with child care, transportation and other issues while working low-wage jobs with fluctuating hours.

“The people who have come to us for help navigating this new administrative maze are juggling multiple low-wage, service industry jobs. They are the people who keep the Granite State running,” New Hampshire Legal Assistance Policy Director Dawn McKinney said in a statement. “This new policy, which includes ending retroactive health coverage, adds more confusing and burdensome requirements for families struggling to make ends meet.”

A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. In a recent blog post, Administrator Seema Verma said the agency supports the ability of states to pursue different approaches.

“We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas in Washington. And it isn’t our job to pre-judge the outcomes of different concepts. We must support innovation, rather than act as a barrier to reform,” she wrote.

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said his office may intervene to defend the rules.

“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 Ben Vihstadt.