Governor Hutchinson (file photo) Brian Chilson

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today granted the federal government’s request for expedited consideration of its appeal of a recent ruling blocking Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg 
last month halted Governor’s Hutchinson‘s so-called “work requirements” program, which demanded that certain Medicaid beneficiaries fill out paperwork on a monthly basis or have their health insurance taken away.

The Trump administration, which approved the waiver of Medicaid rules to allow the program, the first of its kind in the nation, is appealing Boasberg’s decision.


Among other issues, Boasberg found that federal officials failed to engage with the risk of significant coverage losses if the program was allowed. That’s precisely what happened: More than 18,000 Arkansans were stripped of their health insurance.

Attorneys for the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Trump administration, argued that Boasberg’s order “caused and will continue to cause significant disruption,” hindering the Trump administration’s dream of launching this “experiment” in other states. The enforced pause in taking health insurance away from poor people, the government argued, would be “to the detriment of the States and the federal government, which looks to the results of demonstration projects to determine fruitful courses of action.”


The federal government also argued that the massive coverage losses in Arkansas were mostly due to the ill-fated decision by the Hutchinson administration to only allow beneficiaries subject to the work-reporting red tape to do so via a glitchy web site; only a tiny fraction of those subject to the electronic requirement actually did so, whether they were working or not. The Hutchinson initially defended this web-only approach, but under a wave of criticism added a telephone hotline option in December. There’s no evidence that this is working any better, but the Trump administration says everything is fine now.

Hutchinson offered his thanks to Trump. With the expedited hearing, Hutchinson could have a chance to kick more people off of their health insurance by early next year.