Gov. Matt Bevin announced Wednesday he has appointed health care expert Mark Birdwhistell as a consultant to oversee a process to decide how Kentucky should address funding needs that go along with the large portion of Kentucky’s population now on Medicaid.
Birdwhistell, the vice president for administration & external affairs for UK Health Care, will be tasked with looking into Medicaid waivers used in other states like Indiana and Arkansas in order to come up with a Kentucky plan for the Medicaid expansion. Currently six states are using, or are planning to implement waivers, which are vehicles states can use to test new or existing ways to deliver and pay for health care services in Medicaid. The Centers for Medicaid Services (CMS) must approve any state that requests a waiver.
The expansion, done through an executive order by former Gov. Steve Beshear, has been paid 100 percent by the federal government to this point but a state bill will come due in 2017 with the percentage paid by the state going up in years to come, eventually reaching 10 percent, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Under the expansion, the Medicaid population was expanded to all adults making less than 138% of the federal poverty level. Since the expansion was put in place, nearly 400,000 additional Kentuckians have received coverage through Medicaid.
During his campaign and inaugural address, Bevin pointed to Indiana as a model for how to deal with the Medicaid expansion population and said Kentucky could learn from the neighboring state’s system.
At the press conference Wednesday, Bevin said that he hopes to have a plan in place by the middle of 2016 and that he is “confident we can make this work.” Noting that Medicaid is not currently sustainable, he wants this plan to be transformational and a model for the nation.
Since 2009, when it released the Leaky Bucket report, the Kentucky Chamber has expressed concern that the rate of growth in the Medicaid program was crowding out other needed expenditures such as education and economic development.
Upon hearing the announcement, Chamber President Dave Adkisson expressed confidence in the selection of Mark Birdwhistell and noted appreciation for a thoughtful process.
“Mark is well respected as a health care leader. His selection and the deliberate process described today gives the business community confidence that the governor is thoughtfully weighing what is best for Kentucky and trying to manage the system in a way that is sustainable long-term,” Adkisson said.