Medicaid waiver critics still concerned that proposal will get rejected by federal government

10/27/2016 07:24 PM

FRANKFORT — Advocates for Medicaid expansion continued to express their doubts of Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed waiver program, Kentucky HEALTH, during a budget subcommittee meeting on Thursday.

Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, said the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services will likely reject Kentucky’s waiver application because the federal government has dismissed plans with similar provisions, such as charging premiums for those earning less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level and implementing work requirements for able-bodied recipients.

Bevin’s office has said it expects the federal government to approve the waiver application and that the governor will work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “as long as it takes to transform Kentucky’s Medicaid program to achieve these vital goals.”

Beauregard said an “unprecedented” 1,800 Kentuckians have filed public comments on the waiver application.

But Rep. Addia Wuchner said some who’ve voiced their anger seem to be confused on the impact of the waiver application.

That was based on her experience at a northern Kentucky meeting organized by advocates to retain the current Medicaid expansion.

“I said, ‘What we’re talking about is having insurance, having a program that basically, even if you’re at 138 percent of poverty at the top of it would be around $15 a month,’” said Wuchner, R-Florence.

“That is $180 a year to have health care, and you know, they didn’t know that. They didn’t pick that up during the program that was presented to them, and that part I was disappointed on.”

Beauregard said she did not attend that meeting but informational materials presented attempted to show exactly how the waiver proposal would affect different Medicaid recipients.

“Some of the changes impact different populations and some don’t, and we wanted to make that very clear so that people weren’t afraid that every change was necessarily going to have a direct impact on them,” she said. “But we wanted them to know which ones would.”

Rep. Joni Jenkins, who co-chairs the interim joint Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Services and a critic of Bevin’s waiver proposal, said those in the expanded Medicaid population are concerned that the governor will follow through with his pledge to pull the plug on the optional program if the federal government rejects his administration’s waiver application.

“The folks that for the first time have gotten health insurance, they may not think the 1115 waiver is great for them, but gosh they’ll take something rather than nothing,” said Jenkins, D-Shively.

Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center on Economic Policy, said the state has benefited financially from Medicaid expansion.

The state expects to save more than $2 billion with the waiver, with 85 percent of those savings coming from federal sources, he said.

Bailey said the state would save $331 million in the administration’s plan, mostly through fewer Medicaid expansion recipients.

Bevin, who has called Medicaid expansion unaffordable in the state, has said he hoped to see Medicaid recipients transition out of the program for the poor and into private markets as their economic prospects improve.

“All the savings are from fewer people covered under Medicaid, and that’s to be expected given some of the elements that are in the proposal,” Bailey said.


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