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Kentucky Is First State Granted Approval For Medicaid Work Requirements

By Kaiser Health News  
   January 15, 2018

The approval comes one day after the Trump administration released guidance to states on how to design and test programs that require work as a condition of receiving Medicaid.

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6 in 10 non-disabled adults on Medicaid already work at least part time, although they often aren’t offered health benefits through those jobs or can’t afford them. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Surveys show that many Medicaid enrollees who don’t work are in job training, go to school or are taking care of a child or an elderly relative, conditions that would make them exempt from the new mandate, according to the CMS guidelines.

Kentucky’s program would require non-disabled adults each month to participate in 80 hours of work, job training, education or other qualified “community engagement.”

Those who are exempted include children and former foster care kids, pregnant women, senior citizens, people who are the primary caretakers for a child or a disabled adult, those who are deemed medically frail or diagnosed with an acute medical condition that would prevent them from working, and full-time students.

Officials acknowledge that the work requirement — coupled with other changes in its waiver request — would lead to about 95,000 fewer people enrolled after five years. But many of those would drop out not because of finding work but because they can’t overcome the new bureaucratic hurdles, say advocates for the poor.

“We expect that fewer people will be able to stay enrolled in coverage due to all of the red tape and penalties they’ll encounter,” said Emily Beauregard, executive director for Kentucky Voices for Health, an advocacy group. “Keeping up with the reporting requirements alone will be enough of a burden on people who have two or three part-time jobs that they’ll either lose coverage at some point or may decide it’s not worth enrolling to begin with.”

The Kentucky approval brings other major changes to the state’s Medicaid program, which has doubled in enrollment to 1.2 million people since the state expanded eligibility in 2014 under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The revisions would cut dental and vision coverage for many adults, although they can regain it by completing health-related activities, such as taking a disease management class or volunteering.

Individuals with income above the poverty level ($12,060) who do not pay their premiums in 60 days will be kicked out of coverage for six months. Enrollees can return to the program earlier if they pay two months of missed premiums and make one new premium payment. They also must complete a financial or health literacy course.

The state also eliminates its non-emergency transportation benefit for some adults in the program.

Under Kentucky HEALTH, enrollees will make a monthly payment ranging from $1 to $15 depending on income. Pregnant women and children will be exempt from that cost sharing.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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