Debate over Medicaid changes continues in Kentucky

Kentucky is one step closer to submitting an 1115 waiver to the federal government that could change health care for more than 400,000 people.

Gov. Matt Bevin held a second public forum to get input on his proposed changes to Medicaid. Those changes include charging a premium between $1 and $15, cutting vision and dental benefits, and requiring people to take out private insurance if their employer offers it. The state would subsidize the employee’s premium beyond their $1 to $15 Medicaid payment.

That would only affect the “expanded” population, who fall between 24 percent and 138 percent of the poverty line.

Zina Smith makes customers’ homes more beautiful by selling them cabinets and tile at Myers Lumber Company in Mayfield, Kentucky. It’s a job she loves, not just because it pays the bills, but because she’s insured for $20 a week. “It means a lot. It means a lot to have a job where I have insurance,” she says.

Smith had a lapse in coverage and turned to Kynect before enrolling in her employer’s insurance. She says she thinks the program is important because she knows people who now have coverage who never had insurance before.

The cuts to dental and vision coverage wouldn’t affect Smith, even if she was dependent on expansion. At Myers, dental and vision aren’t benefits paid by the company.

Smith’s boss, Phil Myers, says it’s financially tough on a small business but, because he values his employees, he makes their health a priority. “I don’t know how they make it. I really don’t. I mean on their own, without the company pitching in, paying a good portion of their insurance,” he says.

Meyers says he agrees with Bevin’s proposed to change Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. “You’re partnering together to try to solve this problem,” he says. Smith and Meyers think insurance from your workplace makes a better work environment. “It looked a little different having a policy through my employer,” Meyers says.

There is one more forum on July 6 in Hazard, Kentucky. Bevin says he’ll take everyone’s suggestions and concerns into consideration before submitting the change to CMS.

A forum was also held Tuesday in Bowling Green. There, 22 people spoke against the changes, saying they created barriers and would take Kentucky backwards. I spoke with the governor about those critics. He says: “This talk of barriers is nonsense. Don’t tell me that $1 a month, for example, for a person who makes more than the poverty level is a barrier to entry.”

To add your comments to the governor’s list, click here

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