Measures to tighten rules on public assistance programs advance in Senate

02/05/2014 12:04 PM

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: The full Senate gets the next crack at two bills aimed at tightening public benefits: including a measure to prevent temporary assistance funds from being spent on alcohol or in strip clubs and a bill to impose a $10 fee on Medicaid patients who skip medical appointments.

Both bills passed the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday morning without opposition — but with some interesting debate.

Cracking down on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, pledged to make some wording changes to Senate Bill 46 but got the measure through the committee 10-0. It seeks to bar people who receive money or a debit card through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from using those funds at liquor stores, bars, casinos and strip clubs.

The temporary cash program is administered by the state and goes to families, children and students enrolled full time in college with little income. A person can be on the program for a maximum of 60 months during his or her lifetime.

Westerfield agreed to file a floor amendment to change some language aimed at liquor stores to define them as establishments that make a certain percentage of income from alcohol sales.

Questions about the bill prompted some unintentionally funny moments, including when Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, awkwardly asked whether some language in the bill might be too broad. He pointed to the provision aimed at preventing the funds from being spent at a strip club, which is described in the bill as an establishment that “provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state. Buford said many grocery stores and restaurants have “those RedBox machines.”

“And I got to tell you in those videos — sometimes they’re just rated R — but they take all their clothes off in those movies. Not that I’m watching those movies, mind you,” Buford said.

Denton changes pilot program for Medicaid fees on missed appointments

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville and chairwoman of the committee, changed her bill to set up a pilot program to charge Medicaid patients if they miss appointments with doctors or dentists.

Denton lowered the proposed fee to $10 from the original $25, which she says gives Kentucky a better chance to get approval from the federal government. And Denton also said she would amend the bill further to impose the fee only on the third time a patient misses an appointment.

The bill directs the Health and Family Services Cabinet to seek permission to run the pilot project in three counties: Jefferson, Letcher and Pike counties.

Denton said the measure might be the single biggest thing the state can do to encourage physicians to continue to accept Medicaid patients because no-shows among Medicaid patients remains a major problem. Here’s what she said:


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