Judge denies injunction on Kentucky Medicaid expansion

Source Link:  http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20130726/PRIME07/307260115/Judge-denies-injunction-Kentucky

Mike Wynn
The Courier-Journal

FRANKFORT, KY. — A Franklin Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that expansion of Kentucky’s Medicaid program can move forward while the court considers a legal challenge from the tea party.

Gov. Steve Beshear said in May that Kentucky will add about 308,000 beneficiaries to Medicaid rolls next year under the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Tea party activist David Adams has filed suit, challenging Beshear’s decision and seeking a temporary injunction to halt the expansion.

But Judge Phillip Shepherd denied the injunction Friday, reasoning that the case should conclude by October — about three months before the expansion takes effect. If the suit succeeds, relief would be available before implementation, he wrote in the three-page order.

“If the governor prevails on the merits, the injunctive relief granted at this time could cause severe hardship on the many citizens who would be eligible for expanded benefits, and such relief would create havoc for the state officials charged with implementing this policy,” Shepherd ruled.

Beshear has said expanding Medicaid will provide a windfall of federal funding and create $15.6 billion in economic benefits for the state, although critics have raised questions over costs.

Adams contends the governor does not have authority to opt into Medicaid expansion without authorization from the legislature.

But the administration argues that Medicaid is governed by regulation — rather than statute — and that Beshear has clear authority to change regulations.

Adams said Friday that Shepherd’s ruling still provides a pathway for victory in the case by allowing discovery and arguments over the constitutionality of the expansion to move forward. Shepherd also found that Adams can refile for an injunction if the case is not resolved before open enrollment begins Oct. 1.

Reporter Mike Wynn can be reached at (502) 875-5136.