Monday, February 19, 2018

Bevin sues in federal court at Frankfort to get lawsuit over Medicaid changes heard in Kentucky, not Washington

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The legal maneuvering over changes to Medicaid in Kentucky escalated Monday, as Gov. Matt Bevin sued the national groups and Kentuckians who had sued the Trump administration over its approval of the changes Bevin wanted.

The first suit was filed in federal court in Washington. It did not name Bevin or his subordinates as plaintiffs, apparently because he has said a court ruling against his changes would result in his ending the 2014 Medicaid expansion that covers 480,000 Kentuckians.

Bevin's suit was filed in federal court at Frankfort. He wants the case decided in Kentucky, and "seeks to ensure that, as the architect and administrator of the waiver, the Commonwealth's voice is heard," his office said in a press release, adding that the case would ensure that his administration's arguments "are fully considered."

The release noted that the Trump administration's Department for Health and Human Services "recently moved to transfer the case to Kentucky, further confirming the necessity of having a Kentucky court resolve this dispute."

"We cannot sit idly by while the Commonwealth’s plan is debated in an out-of-state courtroom,” Steve Pitt, Bevin's chief lawyer, said in the release. "A Kentucky court, with the full participation of the Commonwealth, should decide this vital issue."

The first suit was filed Jan. 24, 12 days after the Trump administration approved Bevin's proposal that many if not most people covered by the Medicaid expansion be required to work, volunteer or take job training. The plan also includes small, income-based premiums for Medicaid beneficiaries.

The suit, filed on behalf of 16 beneficiaries in Kentucky, alleges that the work rules violate federal law. Kentucky was the first state to win approval of such rules, and Indiana has followed suit; other states' requests are pending.

Bevin's suit seeks a declaratory judgment that his plan complies with the same laws that the first suit says the plan violates. The first suit also says the plan violates the Constitution, which requires that presidents "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bevin's suit seeks a judgment that the claim can't be decided by a court, or that the approval of Bevin's plan didn't violate the clause.

Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of a case.

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