On Thursday, August 12, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia announced that it had ordered the case McCutchen v. Becerra to be held in abeyance. The Court's action follows moves by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reopen the federal comment period on Tennessee's recently approved Medicaid waiver program, TennCare III, which is challenged in the lawsuit. The National Health Law Program, the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC), and King & Spalding LLP filed the suit on behalf of thirteen Tennessee Medicaid beneficiaries with chronic and disabling conditions and a rural pediatrician.
"As approved by the Trump administration, the TennCare III waiver contains a number of features that are at odds with how Congress has designed Medicaid coverage, affecting everything from financing and retroactive coverage to prescription drug services and managed care arrangements. We think the approval is rife with legal errors--including that the Trump administration approved this waiver without allowing the public to comment as required under the law," said Jane Perkins, Legal Director at the National Health Law Program. "Transparency in government is critical, and we welcome this step by HHS to allow the public to be heard."
"By rushing the approval of the TennCare III, the Trump administration neglected to open the required public comment period, depriving Tennesseans and other interested parties the opportunity to oppose the project," said Michele Johnson, Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center. "The State's decision to radically restructure our Medicaid program would harm many low-income individuals and families, including our plaintiffs. Our State has a lengthy history of mismanaging Medicaid, and the hastily approved changes to TennCare III would make it worse. That is why we are heartened by the opening of the federal comment period and the opportunity for our clients and other key stakeholders to make their voices heard regarding the harmful changes to our Medicaid program."
The federal comment period is open until September 9, 2021.