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Gov. Beshear ends Medicaid waiver

Posted at 3:38 PM, Dec 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 18:38:30-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — In a news conference on Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order ending the previous administration's Medicaid waiver. He said this will protect health care for almost 100,000 Kentuckians.

Former Gov. Matt Bevin's administration required people between the ages of 19-64 to complete at least 20 hours of community engagement per week to keep their Medicaid coverage. It meant they had to have a job, go to school, or complete community service. The waiver would have also allowed Kentucky to charge monthly premiums and copayments in addition to the work requirement.

A news release from Beshear's Office said, "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."

The Bevin administration created the waiver to curb Medicaid enrollment after a major expansion through Obamacare. It was meant to save Kentucky money, but Beshear said it would have done more harm than good.

"Let me be clear, this Medicaid waiver would have cost Kentucky money, lives, and jobs. I believe it would have saved us nothing," Beshear said.

The requirement was caught up in court because of lawsuits. Beshear said those lawsuits will now end because he is getting rid of the waiver known as Kentucky HEALTH.

“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.”

The governor also signed an executive order to protect the state's Medicaid expansion program.

“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 of 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.”

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky released a statement from its president and CEO, Ben Chandler, regarding Beshear's decision, "We are happy to see the rescission of work and premium payment requirements, which were potential barriers to maintaining coverage under the Medicaid program in Kentucky. Going forward, we anticipate working closely with the Administration on implementing policies that increase equitable access to high-quality preventive and other health care services that all Kentuckians need."