Kentucky is first to get OK for Medicaid work requirement

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky became the first state to require many of its Medicaid recipients to work to receive coverage, part of an unprecedented change to the nation’s largest health insurance program under the Trump administration.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the approval on Friday. The change will require adults between the ages of 19 and 64 to complete 80 hours per month of “community engagement” to keep their coverage. That includes getting a job, going to school, taking a job training course and community service.

Advocates for the poor have said work requirements will become one more hoop for low-income people to jump through, and many could be denied needed coverage because of technicalities and challenging new paperwork. Lawsuits are expected as individual states roll out work requirements.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said he expects the changes to save the state more than $300 million over the next five years. But he also estimated as many as 95,000 people could lose their Medicaid benefits, either because they did not comply with the new rules or they lose their eligibility because they make too much money.

Bevin has dubbed the new program Kentucky Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health, or Kentucky HEALTH.

“Overall, CMS believes that Kentucky HEALTH has been designed to empower individuals to improve their health and well-being,” CMS Principal Deputy Administrator Demetrios L. Kouzoukas wrote in a letter announcing the change.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth called the changes “dangerous and irresponsible.”

“The Trump administration has agreed to end health coverage for 95,000 Kentuckians,” Yarmuth said. “Make no mistake: People will die because of this.”

Calling the Trump administration’s waivers “unprecedented,” two senior congressional Democrats who work on Medicaid issues asked the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to review the government’s decision-making process.

“It is critical that key decisions regarding eligibility, coverage, benefits, delivery system reforms, federal Medicaid spending, and other important aspects of these demonstrations are transparent, accountable, and in line with congressional intent,” wrote Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Created in 1965 for families on welfare and low-income seniors, Medicaid now covers more than 70 million people, or about 1 in 5 Americans. The federal-state collaboration has become the nation’s largest health insurance program.

There are many exemptions to the work requirement, including the “medically frail,” a broad term that includes people suffering from chronic alcohol and drug abuse in a state that has been one of the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

Other exemptions include pregnant women, full-time students, former foster care youth, primary caregivers of dependents (limited to one per household) and people diagnosed with “an acute medical condition that would prevent them from complying with the requirements.”

Grab the FREE WDTN News App for iPhone or Android. Stay up to date with all the local news, weather and sports as well as live newscasts and events as they happen.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all the latest news, weather and sports.

WDTN.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s