A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commentary: #KeepKYCovered coalition speaks out about risks to well-being of KYHealth proposal

Governor Bevin’s proposed Medicaid waiver (Kentucky HEALTH) includes a number of harmful changes that will impact the health and economic wellbeing of hardworking, low-income Kentuckians, families and our most vulnerable citizens across the Commonwealth.


Today, #KeepKYCovered brings together Medicaid recipients, health advocates, faith leaders, and providers to speak about the impact these changes will have for themselves, their families and their communities.

The majority of Kentuckians on Medicaid are already working, and most of those not working are caregivers and students. The proposal’s requirement for work or volunteer hours is particularly and troublesome to entrepreneurs and farmers in Kentucky.

Farmers frequently work long hours outdoors in order to provide healthy food to citizens of the Commonwealth.

“The work requirements of the new proposal feel like a slap in the face to hard-working families like mine.  ….To assume that because I am low-income that I have an inferior investment in my family’s health is an insult,” states Bree Pearsall, a farmer from Oldham County.

Martin Richards, Executive Director of the Community Farm Alliance shared concerns about the administrative logistics of reporting working hours for small farms and their often short-term employees.

“It’s an administrative hoop for farmers and the government to jump through in order to provide clearly needed health coverage,” he says.

“My coverage through Medicaid allowed me to follow the American dream and it supports other young entrepreneurs in doing the same,” shared Tyler Offerman, an entrepreneur from Kentucky. Medicaid expansion provided a safety net of health care coverage for Tyler and his family.

From The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

From The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Under the proposed plan, “able-bodied” Kentuckians will also be required to pay premiums. Premiums increase based on income and, if unpaid for two months, result in a two month “lock out” period during which they will not be eligible for health coverage. These penalties could be especially harmful to individuals with severe mental illness, those waiting on disability waivers, those experiencing homelessness, and the justice-involved population.

“What happens when someone with Severe Mental Illness drops out of treatment because they don’t have the money for their premium, or  for the copay on their injectable antipsychotic medication?” questions James Haggie, mental health advocate with NAMI Lexington. Being without coverage will likely lead to re-hospitalization or jail time, he adds, “both of which are more costly to the Commonwealth than treatment.”

“Health care policy must protect human life and dignity, not threaten them, especially for the most voiceless and vulnerable,” comments Father Dan Noll of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.

Creating a healthy Kentucky requires investment of time and resources.

Col Owens, retired Senior Attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio and a member of Kentucky Voices for Health Board of Directors, projects that if left alone Medicaid expansion “will more than pay for the state’s investment by reducing healthcare conditions and the costs.”

It will do that “by increasing employment as well as healthcare jobs, by reducing uncompensated care costs, and by increasing revenues from a healthier, more stable and productive workforce.”

Another area of concern with the KYHealth Medicaid proposal is the elimination of three-month retroactive Medicaid coverage for all qualified recipients. Eliminating this coverage could harm individuals, hospitals, physicians, and Kentucky’s economy by increasing the amount of unpaid medical bills. There is no dignity in debt.

There is, however, dignity in health care coverage. Dr. Eli Pendleton, a family practice physician, shared that patients came “to me with tears in their eyes, overjoyed that they were finally able to take charge of their health problems. I had people quit smoking, get their blood pressure and diabetes under control, get much needed glasses, and finally address long-standing dental issues. Many of these patients were then able to rejoin the work force, often enthusiastically…”

Health coverage is more than dollars and cents. It is security and peace of mind. As a Commonwealth, we can do better than many elements of KYHealth.

Kentucky Voices for Health is a 501(c)3 organization
Kentucky Equal Justice Center is a 501(c)3 organization www.kyequaljustice.org
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Community Farm Alliance
Catholic Conference of Kentucky is the policy arm of the state’s four Catholic bishops.
Kentucky Council of Churches

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