Chandler-led foundation to help with Medicaid changes
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is partnering with the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin to help low-income Kentuckians keep their health coverage under the new Medicaid plan that takes effect July 1.
“We have a singular objective in the endeavor announced today, and that is to keep Kentuckians covered,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation, said at a May 30 press conference in Louisville to announce the partnership.
Chandler told the nearly 200 people in attendance that “an independent, non-profit, non-partisan foundation” is “uniquely situated” to help Kentuckians on Medicaid meet the new requirements.
“The foundation’s passion for this is our passion for this,” Bevin said. “It is not a partisan issue.” He is a Republican; Chandler (whose family owns the Sun) is a Democrat who was in Congress in 2004-12, state attorney general in 1996-2003 and a 2003 nominee for governor.
Bevin’s new Medicaid plan, called Kentucky HEALTH (for Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health) includes, among other things, requirements for work, education or training; monthly reporting; lock-out periods for failure to comply; and premiums and co-payments based on income.
The changes will largely impact “able-bodied” Kentuckians who have gained Medicaid coverage through the expansion of the program to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is less than $16,394 for an individual.
Medicaid covers almost one in three Kentuckians, almost half a million of them through the expansion.
Chandler said that through this partnership, the foundation will help Kentuckians keep their health coverage by helping them to better understand the new requirements; helping communities offer ample community engagement requirements; helping people find ways to pay their premiums, promoting preventive health initiatives, focusing on helping those with substance use disorders, and providing health and financial literacy education, as required by the program.
In addition, he said they will facilitate a “statewide feedback program,” as the implementation rolls out, “to identify best practices and lessons learned, and to resolve program inefficiencies.”
Veronica Judy Cecil, who had served as a deputy commissioner in the state Department for Medicaid Services under Bevin and Democratic predecessor Steve Beshear, has been hired to oversee this partnership. Cecil ran Chandler’s congressional office.
Critics of Kentucky HEALTH say it is too complicated and creates barriers to health care.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently released a report saying that the plan’s new rules, which were approved by the federal government through what is called a demonstration waiver, will likely cause many people to lose coverage.
“Current waiver proposals and recently approved waivers will cause large numbers of eligible people to lose coverage and will increase administrative costs,” the report concludes. “Those who lose coverage will have less access to care, less financial security and worse health outcomes.”
The Bevin administration estimates that 95,000 fewer Kentuckians will be on the Medicaid rolls with the changes than without them, partly because of non-compliance. The state has budgeted $186 million for fiscal year 2018 and $187 million for 2019 to implement the waiver, and has requested that the federal government pay for 90 percent of these costs, according to the budget center’s report.
Chandler said the foundation was well aware that many stakeholders had “deep concerns” about beneficiaries losing their coverage, and added, “So do we.”
Bevin has said that the state can’t afford to have nearly one-third of its population on Medicaid, but when asked if his goal to decrease the
Medicaid rolls was in conflict with the foundation’s goal of keeping people on them, he said that kicking people off the program was never his goal.
“My goal is to get a healthier outcome for the people of Kentucky. I’ve never made any mention with respect to the size and scope of Medicaid,” he said. “What I do believe is if you have a healthier population, you won’t need as many people.”
Chandler later added, “Not at any time have any of these folks here suggested to us that they are trying to throw people off Medicaid.”