Kentucky’s Medicaid program to see changes after federal government approves Bevin administration’s waiver

More than a year and a half after discussions by the Bevin administration of a Medicaid waiver with new requirements to keep the expanded population on the government health plan began, Gov. Matt Bevin announced Friday the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver has been approved by the federal government.

At the announcement of approval of the waiver, Gov. Bevin said Kentucky’s waiver will help “lead the nation in constructive changes to Medicaid.”

“This marks the first significant change to a federal entitlement program in more than 20 years. The result will be a transformational improvement in the overall health of our people and will provide a model for other states to follow,” Bevin said. “Kentucky HEALTH is specifically tailored with the unique needs of Kentuckians in mind. It will apply innovative approaches to improving our health, stability and quality of life.”

The Bevin administration said the goal of the Kentucky HEALTH (Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health) program will improve the health of its participants, strengthen Medicaid’s long-term fiscal sustainability, and promote personal responsibility for health and well-being.

Savings from the new program, according to the Bevin administration, is expected with initial figures of an estimated $2 billion dollars (federal and state) over the waiver demonstration period, allowing these funds to be focused on those most in need and other critical areas.

The proposal came as Medicaid costs continue to grow in the state. The administration says the plan keeps Kentuckians covered while also making the Medicaid program sustainable and gives participants ownership of their insurance. One example of this are newly imposed premiums ranging from $1-$15 for those making between 34-138 percent of the poverty rate.

The announcement about the waiver being approved comes just one day after the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) announced Thursday it will authorize “community engagement” requirements that Kentucky and a half-dozen other states are seeking to make a part of their Medicaid program.

Bevin’s Medicaid proposal, officially submitted to the federal government in August 2016, requires some adults to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week to keep health benefits, along with many other changes to the Medicaid program in the state.

The work requirement submitted as part of Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver is aimed largely at “able-bodied” adults added to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and would exclude the elderly, disabled, medically frail or some caring for children or other relatives. The letter released Thursday by CMS contains similar language on the work requirements.

Kentucky Education and Workforce Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner said the new program will also help the state’s workforce issues by putting citizens in need on a path to better health and financial stability.

“We look forward to welcoming eligible Kentucky HEALTH members to our Kentucky Career Centers, and helping them gain the skills necessary to fill the hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs that are available in the Commonwealth right now,” Heiner said.

The new program will also include expanded drug treatment programs and new incentive programs. The administration launched a new website along with the announcement to provide more details on the new program.

The full CMS memo approving the waiver can be seen here.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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