Politics

On Monday, Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration will hold the second of two opportunities for the public to weigh in on the governor’s new proposal to change the state’s Medicaid system.

Bevin asked the federal government last year for permission to require able-bodied Medicaid beneficiaries to pay monthly premiums ranging between $1 and $15 for their health benefits.

The 1115 Medicaid waiver also requires most Medicaid beneficiaries to prove that they are working, trying to find employment or volunteering 20 hours a week.

The Bevin administration held a public comment session in Somerset on Friday, drawing mostly criticism, but also some praise from an audience that traveled from around the state.

Andrea Welker, an attorney from Lexington, said Bevin’s proposed changes would create more red tape for poor people to access healthcare.

“Nothing in the body of evidence that I have seen suggests that anything that we’re doing is going to lead to improved health outcomes for Kentuckians,” Welker said.

The governor’s office argues that the changes are necessary to save the state money on Medicaid, which provides health coverage to about a quarter of the state’s population.

The administration estimates the latest move would save Kentucky $338 million over the next five years. According to Bevin’s waiver, the newest changes would trim about 9,000 Kentuckians from the state’s Medicaid rolls over the next five years.

That’s in addition to the approximately 86,000 that were predicted to lose coverage under Bevin’s original waiver.

Johnny Pittman, who has multiple sclerosis, traveled from Henry County to speak in favor of Bevin’s proposal at the Somerset hearing. He said people need to learn to live without government assistance.

“The only way they can get out is being encouraged to see a pathway out, as opposed to a pathway that continues to perpetuate and even propagate terrible ideas of ‘you have to stay in this system to become better,’” Pittman said. “You don’t.”

Former Gov. Steve Beshear enacted Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion by executive order. The program enlarged the eligibility pool for Medicaid by authorizing people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $16,242 for a childless adult.

So far, about 460,000 people have been added to the state’s Medicaid rolls through the expansion.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.