WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington threw a significant roadblock into the Trump administration’s efforts to require poor people on Medicaid to be compelled to work in exchange for health benefits, rejecting a Kentucky program for a second time while saying that rules in effect in Arkansas ‘‘cannot stand.’’
The twinned opinions, in a pair of states that have been leaders in the move toward Medicaid work requirements, cast doubt on the Trump administration’s approvals of efforts to reenvision the public insurance program. The opinions undo the permission the US Health and Human Services Department had given those two states, telling the agency it must reconsider their applications with an eye toward the effect on poor people who depend on the coverage.
Judge James Boasberg, of the US District Court of the District of Columbia, concluded that in letting Kentucky go forward with its requirements, HHS had been ‘‘arbitrary and capricious.’’
The rulings came nine months after Boasberg, an appointee of President Barack Obama, first signaled his disapproval of the way President Trump’s health aides were handling the issue. Two days before Kentucky was to begin its new ‘‘community engagement’’ requirements, the judge stopped the state in its tracks.