Kentucky first state to adopt Medicaid work requirement

Story by James Turner, Contributing writer 

Kentucky is the first state in the nation to be approved by federal authorities to implement a general work requirement for beneficiaries of Medicaid.

During the State of the Commonwealth and Budget Address, Gov. Matt Bevin briefly discussed the approval of a section 1115 waiver that requires some beneficiaries of Medicaid to have general work requirements.

Under the HEALTH system, there is a community engagement program called PATH, Partnering to Advance Training and Health.. With HEALTH, lawmakers hope it will encourage people to be more active in their community and improve employability.

PATH requires non-disabled Kentuckians ages 19 to 64 to work at least 80 hours per month to qualify for Medicaid. Individuals have the opportunity to get those hours from employment, volunteering or attending school.

 “Medicaid for able-bodied, working-aged men and women without dependents is going to change,” Bevin said. “The expectation and the opportunity and the incentive for the people to do for themselves is going to change.”

Bevin said the new medical plan in Kentucky will be a model for the rest of the nation. Since Kentucky’s federal approval, the neighboring state of Indiana has also received the waiver approval. Eight other states have filed their applications.

According to Kentucky HEALTH’s website, the new health insurance will be available to non-disabled Medicaid members, low-income parents, caregivers, pregnant women and children. The plan is not for those who receive Medicare or on Medicaid for age or disability.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said the move was “dangerous and irresponsible.” Yarmuth lambasted the move saying that by approving Bevin’s waiver, the Trump Administration has agreed to end health coverage of 95,000 Kentuckians.

 James Clinger, professor of political science and director of the Masters of Public Administrations program, said part of the reason why reforming healthcare is so important to Kentucky is due to the aging population of the state. Clinger said senior citizens generally require a lot of high-cost healthcare, and a hefty portion of those in nursing homes are on Medicaid.

 He said Bevin is trying to encourage people to be more responsible for themselves and more engaged in the workforce, but there are always exceptions.

 “The state will have to determine who will be exempted from the work requirements,” Clinger said. “It may also have to monitor who is employed and who is not. That is why I think that the implementation costs may be significant for this proposal.”

Without seeing the full plan, Clinger said it will be difficult to determine the impact this will have on Kentuckians.

Clinger said should a court stop the waiver, Bevin will get rid of the Medicaid expansion.

“That would be a dramatic, and I think unsuccessful, tactic,” Clinger said.

Bevin said the new system will take effect in July 2018.