Democrats file bills to win back Medicaid benefits; CHFS defends rollback in dental, vision coverage

07/02/2018 01:48 PM

The fallout continues in Frankfort, as the Cabinet for Health and Family Services ends Medicaid dental and vision benefits after a federal judge blocked implementation of a work requirement set to roll out on Sunday; now Democrats say they’ll fight to make sure those in the system get those needed health benefits.

Kentucky HEALTH was struck down by the court on Friday, and the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services tells Pure Politics the “My Rewards Account” program was invalidated. Now the administration says there is “no longer a legal mechanism in place to pay for dental and vision coverage for about 460,000 beneficiaries who have been placed in the Alternative Benefit Plan.”

“As such, they no longer have access to dental and vision coverage as a result of the court’s ruling,” CHFS told Pure Politics.

Democrats argue they don’t think Gov. Matt Bevin had the legal authority to take away the benefit, especially so quickly.

However, CHFS tells Pure Politics they had already gone through a process to amend the state Medicaid plan in April, and have undergone a comment period — back when they made changes to implement Kentucky HEALTH, the 1115 waiver changing services and imposing the work requirement and some co-pays.

“Members have already received notice that effective July 1, they would be placed into an Alternative Benefit Plan in which optional dental and vision benefits would only be available through Kentucky HEALTH’s “My Rewards Account” program,” CHFS told Pure Politics on Monday. “Additionally, a State Plan Amendment was posted in April reflecting that change.”

In an interview with Pure Politics in late June CHFS Sec. Adam Meier said eliminating the benefit was on-the-table if the court struck down the 1115 waiver.

On Monday, several Louisville Democrats including Rep. Joni Jenkins, Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, Sen. Gerald Neal and Sen. Morgan McGarvey say legislation will come next session in an effort to ensure dental and vision are mandatory Medicaid benefits.

Democrats are calling for a change in leadership, and former Auditor Adam Edelen, who is considering a run for governor, also spoke at the event on Monday.

“What we need is leadership in Frankfort that understands it’s not that the poor are not working hard enough, it’s that the work they’re doing doesn’t pay enough,” Edelen said.

In a statement released Monday, CHFS said they were glad vision and dental is part of the conversation, but few on Medicaid use the benefit.

“It is great that people are talking about the importance of routine vision and dental coverage. Unfortunately, annually fewer than 10% of Medicaid beneficiaries have taken advantage of this coverage. Kentucky HEALTH’s My Rewards program is designed to INCREASE people’s use of their vision and dental coverage by incentivizing them with earned credits to the My Rewards Account. However, when Kentucky HEALTH was invalidated by the court, the My Rewards program was eliminated, and there is no longer a funding mechanism in place to pay for dental and vision services.

We hope that we can work together to quickly resolve the fallout from the court ruling, so that the My Rewards program can be reinstated.”


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