Bevin Administration Cuts Kentucky Medicaid Vision and Dental Benefits

Roughly 460,000 Kentuckians will have their vision and dental benefits cut by Gov. Matt Bevin's administration after a federal judge blocked a plan to institute Medicaid work requirements

click to enlarge Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin - Photo: State of Kentucky
Photo: State of Kentucky
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

Roughly 460,000 Kentuckians who receive Medicaid will have their dental and vision coverage cut under a new move by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration.

The cuts come 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 subsequent cuts to vision and dental benefits are a direct result of the judge’s decision, claiming the state has no way to pay for the benefits now.

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.

The “optional services,” the cabinet said, will be restored once the state wins a legal challenge against the judge’s ruling.

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.

Kentucky Democrats blasted the Bevin administration’s cuts.

"We have folks that are showing up for dental appointments that they made months ago and neither they nor the providers are really certain what the rules are," State Rep. Joni Jenkins said. "And that's just unacceptable for government to be operating this way."

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