Gov. Matt Bevin told the federal government a year ago that 400,000 Kentuckians would lose expanded Medicaid benefits if his plan to implement a work requirement was not approved.
In a surprising move a few months ago, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved the waiver to allow Kentucky to become the first state to force able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work, go to school or do community service to keep their health benefits.
Kentucky quickly established regulations for its new program to go into effect on July 1. However, a federal judge ruled that the Bevin plan could not be implemented.
Rather than reprimand the judge and call him names as he earlier had done to a state judge, Bevin reacted by canceling – without advance notice or public hearings – the dental and vision coverage for as many as 460,000 Kentuckians.
The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services described the action as an 'unfortunate consequence' of the federal judge’s ruling.
Health care advocates for the poor, as well as Democratic officials, immediately criticized the governor’s decision as ill-advised and possibly
illegal. Further court action was suggested.
The decision by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg to reject Bevin's plan to overhaul the state's Medicaid program is a setback for President Donald Trump who has encouraged states to impose work requirements and other changes on the joint state and federal health insurance program for poor and disabled persons.
The Bevin administration blamed the judge for the cuts, claiming his ruling left no legal way for the state to pay for dental and vision coverage for about 460,000 Medicaid beneficiaries.
State Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, said the loss of dental coverage could worsen the state's drug addiction problems because untreated dental pain is considered a “huge gateway” to painkiller abuse.
Kentucky was among 32 states to expanded Medicaid coverage to able-bodied adults and nearly 500,000 persons signed up.
We believe this spiteful action by our hard-hearted governor is further evidence of his lack of compassion for the poor and unhealthy among us.
In our view, he makes a strong argument for going back to a one-term limit for governors.