For the third year in a row, KVH submitted public comments to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding Governor Bevin’s 1115 Medicaid Waiver, known as Kentucky HEALTH. This new comment period comes on the heels of a recent federal court ruling that blocked the waiver in its entirety.
Kentuckians spoke up in record numbers to oppose harmful new requirements and harsh penalties that would ultimately result in nearly 100,000 Kentuckians losing coverage. In total, more than 11,561 written comments were submitted to federal administrators from concerned citizens, nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers, faith leaders, researchers, and advocates. Overwhelmingly, they have expressed opposition to the waiver and urged caution in making changes that would reverse Kentucky’s health and economic gains.
“Kentuckians strongly reject the notion that complicated new requirements and harsh penalties will do anything to improve the health or economic well being of low-income workers and families.” said Emily Beauregard, Executive Director of Kentucky Voices for Health. “If CMS re-approves the same punitive work and reporting requirements, Kentuckians are guaranteed to face more barriers accessing the care they need to be healthy and productive.”
The design of the program starts with a false assumption that beneficiaries simply aren’t trying hard enough to extricate themselves from the grips of poverty. It then piles on layer upon layer of red tape and penalties that are in no way designed to accomplish the primary goal of the program embedded in Federal law and central to the June 29, 2018 U.S. District Court decision: to provide health care coverage for individuals and families in poverty. “We already know what happens when individuals lose Medicaid coverage,” said Adrienne Bush, executive director of the Homeless & Housing Coalition of Kentucky. “They have a harder time managing chronic conditions, mental health disorders, and addictions, making it nearly impossible to maintain stable employment.”
This new comment period is an attempt by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to re-approve a waiver that will undeniably reduce coverage and limit access to care for hard-working, low-income Kentuckians and families who need a healthcare safety-net they can rely on. “With absolutely no changes being made to the waiver since it was struck down in federal court, there is no question that it would be devastating for Kentucky,” said Dustin Pugel, policy analysis with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “Medicaid strengthens our economy by keeping us all healthier, making people more employable, and employees more productive. This waiver does the opposite.”
“There are better ways to make Kentucky’s Medicaid program more sustainable that would not require a waiver,” said Sheila Schuster, executive director of the Advocacy Action Network. “We should start by reducing barriers to coverage – not increasing them. We should make the program easier to understand and use – not harder. And we should focus on encouraging people to use their coverage to improve their health, not enforcing new rules that are outside the scope of the Medicaid program.”
For more information about the proposed Medicaid changes and potential impact: