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Kentucky HEALTH Comment Period Ending

Kentucky News Connection

Time is short for Kentuckians to weigh in on the state's request to mandate work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries. The deadline for a federal comment period on the Kentucky HEALTH plan is Saturday at midnight. Under the proposed waiver, Medicaid expansion beneficiaries would need to meet an 80-hour-per-month work requirement in order to continue receiving coverage.

As state outreach and education director at Kentucky Voices for Health, Angela Koch contends the work requirement is costly to implement, and creates red tape that would result in people losing necessary health coverage. "Medicaid waivers are supposed to be innovative," says Koch. "They are supposed to change the way Medicaid works for the better, and this waiver does the opposite. It breaks Medicaid."
However, supporters of the mandate counter that finding employment will help people move out of poverty and improve their health in the long run.

The requirement was scheduled to go into effect on July first, but was struck down by a judge who sent it back to federal officials for additional review. It's estimated that 95,000 Kentuckians could lose coverage if the waiver is approved.

Debbie Weiss of Louisville works with adults with severe mental illness, and explains that even with the assistance of caseworkers, her clients already struggle to navigate the Medicaid system. She says most clients want to work or volunteer, but mental or physical health issues prevent even the most successful from managing 20 hours a week. "To have it not be a choice and have their essential medical insurance depend on it with no ramp up, it's an unrealistic and inappropriate requirement," says Weiss.

Kentucky Voices for Health is collecting comments on the waiver and has already garnered more than 1,000 responses, which Koch notes is in addition to the 7,000 already submitted to federal officials.
"And of course, we're taking negative comments as well," says Koch. "If people think the waiver's great and they want there to be a work requirement, we're submitting those right along with the others. But something like 87 percent of folks who have taken this survey believe the Medicaid expansion should be left alone and that this waiver should just be thrown out in its entirety."

Kentucky was the first of four states with work-requirement waivers approved by federal officials.