Governor’s OfficeIn an unexpected development, Kentucky officials have restored vision and dental benefits for Medicaid recipients in the state after cutting them earlier this month as they await federal approval for an overhaul of the state’s healthcare system designed by the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin.
Roughly 400,000 Kentuckians who receive Medicaid had their dental, vision and non-emergency transportation coverage cut under the move.
The cuts came after a federal judge blocked Kentucky HEALTH, the Bevin administration’s attempt to restructure the state’s healthcare system. The effort would have made Kentucky the first state in the country to place work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Under a plan approved by the Trump administration, Bevin sought to require able-bodied recipients to work 80 hours a month, take job training courses, go to school or volunteer in order to keep their benefits. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg rejected the work requirements, calling them “arbitrary and capricious.” Boasberg also took the Trump administration to task for approving the plan, saying it overlooked key elements of federal Medicaid law.
The work requirements were scheduled to be phased in starting July 1 in Northern Kentucky’s Campbell County.
Bevin’s administration says the cuts to vision and dental benefits were a direct result of Judge Boasberg’s decision, claiming the state had no way to pay for the benefits without the plan. A statement about restoring the benefits from the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services laid the blame for the cuts at the feet of the judge who rejected Bevin’s reforms.
“In order to mitigate the consequences of the judge’s ruling and avoid a prolonged coverage gap prior to the re-approval of Kentucky HEALTH, we have begun the process to reinstate vision and dental coverage, as well as non-emergency transportation services, for those whose benefits were affected by the June 29 court action,” the statement read.
Kentucky HEALTH had a new mechanism for paying for vision and dental benefits. But the Bevin administration didn’t have a backup plan for those benefits if HEALTH’s work requirements were struck down. Since Boasberg rejected HEALTH, sending it back to the state’s health and human services cabinet for reworking, there is no way for the state to administer the benefits, the Bevin administration says.
“This is an unfortunate consequence of the judge’s ruling,” the Kentucky Health and Human Services Cabinet said in a statement.
Kentucky was one of 32 states to expand Medicaid coverage under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Republican Gov. Bevin was elected in 2015 after running a campaign promising to dismantle the expansion, which he says will be too costly for the state over time. About half a million low-income Kentuckians gained coverage under the expansion.
The Bevin administration says the state will face a $300 million shortfall in Medicaid funding by 2020. State officials say they’re still waiting for federal approval to implement Bevin’s reforms.