Future For TennCare Work Requirements Could Be In Jeopardy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Washington, D.C.-based U.S. District Judge struck down a Kentucky deal mandating that most recipients of Kentucky’s Medicaid coverage must work or volunteer to receive benefits, saying the requirements don’t align with the state’s objective to give medical assistance to Kentuckians.

Friday's decision left many in the Volunteer State to wonder what might be ahead for Tennessee’s own law passed this year that could lead to work, volunteer or schooling requirements for most receiving TennCare.

While no work requirements are currently in effect in Tennessee, the law the state legislature passed this year allows TennCare to negotiate work requirements with the Federal Government.

“I would be very surprised if Tennessee’s work requirements law isn't struck down within the next year,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville).  “And good riddance.”

Stewart, a critic of the work requirements law, says he thinks Tennessee's work requirements will never go into effect.

“It’s a terrible law, it’s a dishonest people, it would do the opposite of what we need to be doing: it would kick people off healthcare,” Stewart said.  “We need to have more healthcare for more people.”

But Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), the author of the Senate bill, disagrees, saying this federal court's ruling likely won't last long.

“I'm sure it will be overturned by the Supreme Court,” Roberts said.

He says work requirements tied to food stamps have the precedent of being upheld in federal courts.  He says while TennCare works out a deal with the federal government, the state may consider this latest ruling.

“It’s very possible TennCare takes today’s ruling and works with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to craft a ruling that will be upheld in federal court, and not be affected by the federal ruling,
Roberts said.

If the work requirements issue ends up in the Supreme Court, it will likely be heard before more conservative-leaning justices, with President Trump’s second Supreme Court pick expected to be seated for the start of the court’s next term in October.

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