Congressman Yarmuth sends Gov. Bevin letter urging him to drop Medicaid waiver

10/18/2016 06:59 PM

FRANKFORT — Congressman John Yarmuth is urging Gov. Matt Bevin to withdraw his administration’s Medicaid waiver application on Tuesday, arguing in a letter Tuesday that recent actions by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services signal doom for Kentucky’s proposal.

Yarmuth singled out CMS denials of Medicaid waivers submitted by Arizona, which was partially denied, and Ohio. Those states had provisions similar to Kentucky’s waiver in their proposals, such as charging premiums on individuals with incomes below the federal poverty level, locking out plans for non-payment and implementing work requirements on able-bodied adults.

“There is no doubt Kentucky’s request will be denied,” Yarmuth, D-Louisville said during a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda.

Bevin’s office dismissed Yarmuth’s concerns as political theater and said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “has full authority to approve everything in Kentucky Health.”

“While Congressman Yarmuth plays politics three weeks before an election, Gov. Bevin and his team have spent several months developing a transformative and financially sustainable Medicaid plan that will actually improve health outcomes for Kentuckians and encourage self-sufficiency,” Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said in a statement.

“… Gov. Bevin remains committed to working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as long as it takes to transform Kentucky’s Medicaid program to achieve these vital goals.”

Bevin, a Republican, has said he will rescind expanded Medicaid, enacted via executive order by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in 2013, if CMS denies the Kentucky Health waiver application.

That troubles Yarmuth and others who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference, saying that would terminate Medicaid coverage for some 440,000 Kentuckians presently enrolled in the expansion population.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, says she and others on the House Task Force on Vulnerable Kentuckians have heard from those who have benefited from expanded Medicaid in hearings since the panel’s formation earlier this year.

“We heard a Breathitt County mother speak about her daughter’s terrible suffering from Crohn’s disease and how expanded Medicaid now allows her to receive affordable medication to ease her symptoms,” Jenkins said. “We heard healthcare advocates applaud the drug and alcohol treatment thousands of Kentuckians are receiving now thanks to programs and counseling available through expanded Medicaid.

“We have more people receiving screenings and seeing tangible results and positive health care markers thanks to this program, and we simply cannot go backward.”

The Rev. Matthew Johnson of Ridgewood Baptist Church said his family obtained health coverage through subsidies offered on kynect and offered a grave assessment of what could happen if CMS approves Kentucky’s waiver, although he seemed to mix the Medicaid waiver application with Bevin’s decision to transition away from kynect in his remarks.

“Make no mistake, if these changes go through people are going to die,” he said. “People are going to miss a payment, not be able to afford a payment, not understand how to change from one website to the other, be affected by an administrative glitch, and they will lose their insurance, and then they won’t go to the doctor to get their blood pressure checked or go to the pharmacy to get that diabetes medication that they need, and people are going to die.”

Bevin has called Medicaid expansion financially unsustainable for Kentucky, and his administration estimates in the waiver application that the state will save $331.6 million during the five-year waiver demonstration period compared to no changes in the program.

The congressman pointed to a study performed by Deloitte Consulting that estimated a $30 billion economic impact in the state through 2021 due to expanded Medicaid. Bevin has rejected Deloitte’s findings in that study.

“I don’t think they’ve offered one of their own, but again, that’s a legitimate point of contention,” Yarmuth said. “The fact is that, again, 440,000 Kentuckians, many of whom are alive today because of Medicaid expansion, are going to lose that coverage.”

Vicki Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, declined to comment on Yarmuth’s letter after an unrelated news conference Tuesday.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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