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Column: Amid pandemic and peak unemployment, Trump still pushing Medicaid work requirement

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Credit is due once again to the Trump administration for its steadfastness in the face of real-world crises that could derail its long-term project of relentlessly doing exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time.

Case in point: The administration just doubled down on its intention to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

This falls into the category of thumbing its nose at a double-barreled disaster -- the spread of COVID-19 and an unemployment rate that is reaching levels nationwide not seen since the Great Depression.

In other words, Trump is angling to take away healthcare for the neediest Americans unless they can look for or secure a job amid rampant joblessness.

Trump's policy effort is embodied in a brief the government filed late Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to endorse Medicaid work requirements.

The case specifically involves Arkansas, but the government acknowledges that the court's decision will have an impact on proposed work rules in 18 other states -- eight in which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has already approved work requirements, and 10 in which its judgment is pending.

 

Even if the Supreme Court accepts the case, it won't hear oral arguments until October or later, with a decision coming sometime in 2021. That makes the Trump brief seem potentially futile, since there will be a presidential election in the interim that may make Trump policies moot.

The most important part of the back story of this case is that the Medicaid work requirements have been rejected by every federal court that has reviewed them.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg overturned those in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire; Kentucky eventually dropped its rules after its tea party governor, Matt Bevin, lost a reelection bid to Democrat Andy Beshear.

When the New Hampshire case came before him last year with the same threadbare arguments that he had already rejected, Boasberg figuratively sighed: "We have all seen this movie before."

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