Georgia suing Biden administration over Medicaid rejection

Brian Kemp
In this April 3, 2021, file photo, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Georgia sued the Biden administration Friday over its decision to revoke approval of a work requirement in the state’s plan to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income Georgians, the governor’s office said.

The suit filed in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia, accuses the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of illegally and arbitrarily cherry-picking parts of an “already agreed to bargain,” according to a news release by the office of Gov. Brian Kemp. It seeks a court order reinstating the original plan with the work requirement.

“Simply put, the Biden administration is obstructing our ability to implement innovative healthcare solutions for more than 50,000 hardworking Georgia families rather than rely on a one-size-fits-none broken system,” Kemp, a Republican, said in a statement.

He accused the Democratic president’s administration of playing politics.

Emails to CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were not immediately returned.

The work requirement was approved by then-President Donald Trump’s administration, but CMS announced last month that it was revoking approval of both that plan and a related Georgia proposal to charge some Medicaid recipients monthly premiums for their health coverage.

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a letter to the state that the work requirement could be impossible for people to meet during the pandemic, when it was critical that low-income Georgians have access to health coverage. The Kemp administration said at the time it planned to challenge the decision in court.

Republicans had presented Georgia’s plan as a financially responsible alternative to a full expansion of Medicaid services under the Affordable Care Act, which 38 states have already done. The plan sought to add an estimated 50,000 poor and uninsured Georgia residents to the Medicaid rolls in its first two years. But to be eligible, Medicaid recipients would have to engage in a minimum number of qualifying hours through work, job training, education, volunteering, or other similar activities.

Democrats in Georgia say full expansion would cover hundreds of thousands of people at a negligible cost to the state. That’s because the ACA, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, gave states the option of expanding Medicaid to low-income adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, with the federal government picking up 90% of the cost. More than 10 million people in the U.S. have gained coverage that way.

Kemp has said full expansion would cost the state too much money in the long run.

The Biden administration is separately reviewing Georgia’s plan to overhaul how residents buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That plan — under which Georgia residents would bypass and shop for federally subsidized health insurance through private agents — was also approved by the Trump administration.