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Senate candidate Bevin: What happens when government turns a 'safety net into a hammock'

09/03/2013 08:54 PM

*UPDATED: *The dividing line between the taxpayer-funded safety nets and programs that become government-provided hammocks should be “somewhere well below where it is now,” said Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin.

Bevin, the Louisville businessman who owns parts of 10 companies, said that applies to the food stamps program (known now as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), as well as the effects of the Affordable Care Act and Medicare and Medicaid.

Bevin has frequently criticized his opponent in next year’s GOP primary, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, for not doing more to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act. Bevin has said the nation simply can’t afford such an expansion of health care, which includes allowing states like Kentucky to raise the eligibility for Medicaid to residents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.

Bevin said Congress should reform both Medicaid, which covers health care for the poor and disabled, and Medicare, which serves as health insurance for those 65 and older.

“You can’t just shut these programs down. But if we don’t recognize that we are on a fiscally unsustainable path with programs like that and others, and if in fact we don’t start to do things like raise the eligibility limits for participation and start doing this now, then all of this will be a moot point,” Bevin said (0:15).

He said he would support raising age and income eligibility levels and for means testing of Medicare, in which those who earn more receive fewer benefits.

Bevin said he opposes the expansion of Medicaid, which Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has agreed to. Between January 2014 and 2017, the federal government will cover full cost of adding an estimated 308,000 uninsured Kentuckians who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty rate ($31,800 for a family of four). After that, Kentucky will kick in 5 percent, and that share will grow to 10 percent by 2020.

That approach only shifts the cost of how hospitals and doctors will cover the costs treating the uninsured, Bevin said. Instead of spreading the cost to those who have health insurance, it will be shifted to taxpayers, he said.

“Who do you think is going to pay for Obamacare? It’s also the same people. The point is: fixing a problem with a problem is not the solution,” Bevin said (4:30). “Self-reliance and putting the responsibility on individuals is the best way to go. It is not a perfect way. There is no perfect solution.”

Bevin also answered questions about food stamps program (5:30) and raising the minimum wage (7:55).

Bevin made one claim that warranted fact-checking. When discussing the food stamps program, or SNAP, Bevin said government programs sometimes go beyond helping the very neediest. He said he, his wife and their nine children might be eligible for food stamps in some program even if they made $100,000 a year.

“In the state of Washington, for example, I could make over $100,000 and still be eligible for SNAP,” Bevin said (6:00 of the video).

An initial check of the Washington state basic food program guidelines shows that the maximum gross income for a family of 11 would be $5,501 per month, which works out to $66,012 per year, or 130 percent of the federal poverty rate for a family that size. Those figures are maximum eligibility figures for certain populations, according to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.

UPDATED: The Bevin campaign, however, pointed to another document from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, which manages the food stamps program.

That document says a family of 11 could be eligible for food stamps if it earned up to 200 percent of the poverty rate, which would be $8,462 — or $101,544.

However, a check with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services said even that number isn’t correct, although the actual figure would make Bevin correct. Here’s a response from John Camp, administrator of the office of programs and policy for the Washington DSHS:

… An 11-person household could have income up to an absolute maximum of $8,616 monthly / or $103,392 per year. However, that’s just the income test. Most households in Washington with gross income over 130% of the federal poverty rate do not receive monthly food benefits. The higher income limit only makes a household potentially eligible for SNAP benefits, because the federal calculation for benefits does not change. We must determine eligibility and calculate SNAP benefits as set under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.


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