Friday, January 18, 2019

Federal shutdown delays lawsuit against state Medicaid changes

The acronym in the name of the state's plan stands for
Helping to Engage and Achieve Long-Term Health.
The partial shutdown of the federal government has slowed the lawsuit challenging Gov. Matt Bevin's plan to revamp Kentucky's Medicaid program with work requirements and premiums starting April 1.

The judge handling the case in Washington, D.C., gave federal lawyers an extra week to file briefs, after denying their motion for an indefinite stay.

The Justice Department lawyers told District Judge James Boasberg that they had done very little work on the case because the department has been without funds since the shutdown started Dec. 22. They had asked him to delay the case until the department is funded, or at least delay briefings for 10 days.

Boasberg first "said he would delay the case only if Kentucky agrees to delay its overhaul of Medicaid, scheduled to begin April 1. Kentucky did not agree," Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. "In a motion filed Thursday, lawyers for Bevin said the plan is still scheduled to begin April 1 and "the Commonwealth is actively working toward that go-live date." Only one county, Campbell, would do that on April 1; others would follow gradually.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services did support a 10-day delay, but said it “prefers that this action, and any appeal, be resolved sooner rather than later.” Cabinet Secretary Adam Meier told Insider Louisville that the Department for Medicaid Services would keep working toward implementation of the plan, starting in Campbell County on April 1.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, 16 Kentucky Medicaid clients, also argued against an indefinite stay. One of them, Cara Stewart of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, told Insider Louisville's Darla Carter that Boasberg’s “concern in not allowing an indefinite stay shows he understands the risks in allowing the defendants to push closer to their proposed implementation date.”

"A larger problem is looming," reports John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader. "The federal court system is preparing to burn through its current reserve funds within two weeks if the shutdown does not end, The New York Times reported Friday. When the courts’ roughly 33,000 employees are furloughed, the judicial branch will be reduced to 'mission critical' operations, putting most cases on hold, the Times said."

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