FRANKFORT, Ky. — In his first week in office, Gov. Andy Beshear eliminated roadblocks created to make it more difficult for nearly 100,000 Kentuckians to access critical health care and pharmacy benefits.
Beshear’s administration notified the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ending the 1115 demonstration project, known as “Kentucky HEALTH,” that required Kentuckians to meet certain work requirements in order to have health insurance coverage. Beshear also signed an executive order to protect the state’s Medicaid expansion program. The governor effectively ended Kentucky’s litigation involving the waiver in federal court (the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia), and has asked the court to dismiss Kentucky from the lawsuit.
“Health care is a basic human right and every Kentucky family deserves to see a doctor and receive treatment when they are sick,” Beshear said. “I will not allow burdensome roadblocks and unnecessary red tape to stand in the way of the health and well-being of Kentuckians. If we are going to move forward as a commonwealth, and build a bigger and brighter future for all our families, we must first ensure they have access to health care.”
Beshear believes that Kentuckians and the commonwealth’s health care systems are better served by repealing the waiver.
A report of The George Washington University concluded that between 86,000 and 136,000 Kentuckians could lose their Medicaid health insurance coverage under the work and volunteer requirements of the Medicaid waiver project. The Government Accountability Office has provided that waiver project would cost Kentucky an estimated $271.6 million in 2019 and 2020 to implement. A recent University of Kentucky study also revealed that the Kentucky Medicaid expansion program resulted in a 230% increase in the number of Medicaid patients in Kentucky who received colon cancer screening, which resulted in a 27% decrease in risk of death after Medicaid expansion.
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The Cabinet for Health and Family Services Acting Secretary Eric Friedlander, along with urban and rural health care advocates, joined Beshear at the Capitol Monday in support of rescinding the Medicaid waiver.
Friedlander said, “I believe in building on success and success is getting people health care coverage and keeping them covered. This is not only good for the individuals across the commonwealth, but for all our health care providers as well.
“This is wonderful news for Kentucky, but especially for areas like mine in Eastern Kentucky where our health is poorer, our incomes are lower and jobs are sorely needed,” said state Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg. “Medicaid expansion grants access to health care for those who need it the most so that people can live longer and more productive lives, but just as importantly, it provides jobs in the health care industry as local clinics expand to take advantage of this funding. I’m grateful that our governor understands that.”
“As a faith leader, it is my conviction that it is just as unacceptable to simply stand by and do nothing, as it is to actively work against the good of our neighbor,” said Rev. Timothy Findley Jr. of Kingdom Fellowship in Louisville. “When it comes time to make decisions that will change the course of health care in Kentucky—we must translate love into action. Today is about rescinding an uncompassionate Medicaid waiver and beginning to show compassion to those in need in our great state.”
“As the Kentucky Rural Health Association, we are deeply committed to ensuring that all Kentuckians have access to quality health care benefits,” said Ashley Gibson, president of the Kentucky Rural Health Association in Morehead. “So we’re pleased that Gov. Beshear and his administration is rescinding the Medicaid waiver that could have hurt thousands of Kentucky families.”
“If we’ve learned anything from the past six years of Medicaid expansion, it’s that people are able to improve their health, keep a job and be better parents exactly because they are covered in the first place,” said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health in Louisville. “Gov. Beshear’s decision to withdraw this waiver means that more than 400,000 hard-working Kentuckians and their families can have peace of mind knowing they will have access to health care without barriers.”
Kristen Arant of Newport, who is on expanded Medicaid said, “It’s not an exaggeration to say the expansion of Medicaid has saved my life and the lives of thousands of Kentuckians. Since becoming covered in 2014, I’ve received treatment for substance abuse disorder and earned a college degree. Medicaid expansion has been vital to my family.”
The waiver project would have allowed Kentucky to charge monthly premiums and co-payments, and required many able-bodied adults to work or volunteer 20 hours a week. Research shows that at least 60% of adults on Medicaid already work, and usually in low-wage jobs that do not include health benefits. The waiver project also stripped dental and vision coverage for Kentucky’s able-bodied citizens, but those Kentuckians were allowed to earn points for such coverage through a rewards program by volunteer work, attending classes or other activities.
Fifteen Kentuckians who were Medicaid enrollees filed a lawsuit challenging the waiver project in the case of Stewart v. Azar, and in June 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated CMS’ approval of the project. In response, CMS began a 30-day comment period and in Nov. 2018 re-approved Kentucky’s project. The project was scheduled to begin in April 2019, but Kentuckians again challenged it in federal court. In March 2019 – before Kentucky’s waiver project became effective – the same federal court again struck down the waiver project, and at the same time struck down similar work requirements in Arkansas.
The prior administration appealed the decision and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard oral argument Oct. 2019 regarding both Kentucky’s and Arkansas’ work requirements.
Even though the Kentucky Medicaid expansion program insures more than 479,000 adults, the former governor issued an executive order directing the state to end the program if the waiver project did not succeed in court after all appeals. Beshear rescinded that executive order Monday.
Ensuring access to affordable health care is a top priority for Gov. Beshear and his administration.
Beshear said his administration is taking a close look at the $8 billion in Medicaid managed care contracts that the previous administration awarded with just 11 days left in the administration. Those contracts were awarded based on the waiver.