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Medicaid Volunteer Provisions Raise Questions For Ky. Nonprofits

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Some Kentucky nonprofit organizations are voicing concerns about new volunteering requirements included in Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed Medicaid waiver.

Community engagement is a key component of the Medicaid changes envisioned by the Bevin administration. By mandating some work, volunteer, and job-hunting requirements for able-bodied recipients, the governor hopes to encourage beneficiaries to have more “skin in the game” and give back to their communities.

But Danielle Clore, who heads up the Lexington-based Kentucky Nonprofit Network, warns a rush of new volunteers, lacking experience and the typical motivation, is not necessarily a blessing.

"There are the realities of running an effective nonprofit organization and a nonprofit volunteer program, as well as managing risk," she notes. "That includes some staff time. It includes dollars. It includes training and supervision." 

While Clore’s organization is refraining from adopting a position on the waiver, she met with Bevin's chief of staff, Adam Meier, in June to offer input as the administration set about crafting its new recommendations for the state's Medicaid expansion. And the network's contributing groups came to a decidedly skeptical consensus on the value of "forced volunteering."  

"We received no comments at all saying, 'Oh, this is fantastic. We have lots of folks who are required to volunteer and it's a real benefit for us,'" Clore reports. "We've got some very powerful comments in there from members who have had experiences working with people who were required to volunteer and it is, by and large, not a very positive experience."

That’s not to mention more sparse rural nonprofits who may find themselves overwhelmed by the demand and groups working with vulnerable populations who must run background checks on volunteers, which can run up to $100. That said, Clore hopes the comments serve a constructive purpose and work to the benefit of all Kentuckians, nonprofits included. 

"It is our hope that the administration sees these as a positive development that they can use feedback on to strengthen their proposal," Clore tells WUKY.

Bevin chief of staff Adam Meier tells the Lexington Herald-Leader the administration isn’t staking out any new ground with the volunteer provisions – pointing out that some Kentucky high schools and county-administered food stamp programs have similar requirements.

The administration is currently reviewing public comments as they prepare a final proposal to submit to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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