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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear Drops Medicaid Work Requirements, Reversing Bevin Policy

December 17, 2019by Alex Acquisto
Gov.-elect Andy Beshear celebrates with supporters after voting results showed the Democrat holding a slim lead over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin at C2 Event Venue on Nov. 5, 2019 in Louisville, Ky. (John Sommers II/Getty Images/TNS)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s controversial plan to impose work requirements and monthly premiums for many Kentucky Medicaid recipients is no more, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday.

In one of his first major moves as the 63rd governor of Kentucky, Beshear signed an executive order Monday rescinding Bevin’s Kentucky HEALTH plan, which sought to impose strict work requirements for able-bodied, working-age adults. It would have ended health coverage for an estimated 95,000 Kentuckians.

“Rescinding this waiver is not only the right thing to do, it is the moral, faith-driven thing to do,” Beshear said.

As of Dec. 2, more than 1.3 million people in Kentucky were insured through the state’s $9.7 billion Medicaid program, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Flanked by staff, health care advocates and community members, Beshear’s announcement came on his sixth day in office, fulfilling a campaign promise to do away with Bevin’s Medicaid waiver in his first week. The order goes into effect immediately.

Protracted legal challenges brought by Medicaid recipients have kept Bevin’s plan from taking effect even though the federal government has twice approved it. Days before Bevin’s plan was to take effect in June of 2018, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C. blocked the implementation of Kentucky HEALTH, criticizing President Donald Trump’s approval of the waiver as “arbitrary and capricious.”

In November last year, Bevin’s eligibility requirements were again given the green light by the White House. Four months later in March, Boasberg again struck down the plan, sending it back to the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services for further scrutiny.

The fight for Kentucky’s work requirements is currently before a federal appeals court in Washington. Beshear said he has removed Kentucky from the lawsuit. He thanked the plaintiffs who challenged Bevin’s work requirements: “You did the right thing, and we appreciate you for doing that.”

Emily Beauregard, executive director for Kentucky Voices for Health, called Beshear’s order “a huge victory for consumer health advocates and the thousands of Kentuckians who raised their voices to oppose harmful barriers to care.”

“More than 400,000 Kentuckians can breathe easier today, knowing that they won’t be at risk of losing access to the health care services they need to maintain their health, can go to work without worrying about an illness or injury, and can take care of their families,” she said.

Under Bevin’s plan, access to Medicaid coverage for adults between the ages of 19 and 64 would’ve been contingent on them devoting at least 60 hours a month to “community engagement” activities, such as volunteering, going to school or working.

Bevin’s plan also included monthly premiums and mandated reporting requirements. Failing to meet these thresholds would have resulted in lockout periods, which could mean recipients would be denied health care coverage for six months.

General technological and administrative upkeep for Bevin’s reporting system was estimated to cost the state $272 million through fiscal year 2020, an October report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded.

Bevin touted these mandates as helping adult recipients achieve the “dignity associated with earning the value of something that you receive.”

Beshear, though, said “the real way we ultimately move people off expanded Medicaid is through increasing wages for all Kentuckians … until they are making enough money to support their family and (the cost of) private health insurance.”

Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, known as KYnect, was implemented by Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear. During the first four years it was in effect, the state’s uninsured population dropped from just over 14% to just over 5%.

Bevin dismantled the KYnect health exchange, instead relying on the federal government’s HealthCare.gov insurance sign-up portal. Beshear wouldn’t say definitively whether he would reinstate KYnect, but he said he was a “huge supporter” of that program and he is “looking at all of those options right now.”

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©2019 Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

Visit the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.) at www.kentucky.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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