Take the Medicaid Handcuffs Off State Budgets

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Tell a joke about lawyers and, if anyone within shouting distance has ever taken a bar exam, you’ll hear a reminder that everybody needs a good lawyer at some point. Thanks to legislation passed by Congress in March to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a moment in which we could all use a good lawyer.

Specifically, state attorneys general need to step up and challenge provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). As readers will recall, in that measure Congress “compromised” and increased the federal share of Medicaid spending by 6%. The big catch was that each of these states’ Medicaid programs couldn’t change eligibility guidelines or remove anyone from Medicaid who was already enrolled or enrolled after the bill passed, even if an individual went back to work, became ineligible, or committed fraud.

In the name of guaranteeing access to health care during a pandemic, the measure has only guaranteed massive fiscal constraints and legal uncertainty in a moment that demands flexibility and clarity.