Health

Kentucky officials are delaying the start of some new Medicaid rules, including a requirement that some enrollees work or volunteer in order to maintain coverage.

In a news release Thursday, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services said Kentuckians with Medicaid coverage won’t have to start working or volunteering for 80 hours a month to keep their insurance until at least July 1. 

The new rule, called the “community engagement” requirement by the state, was originally supposed to start in July 2018, but a federal judge blocked the rule saying the federal government had not legally approved the change. The Trump administration re-approved changes in November.

The community engagement requirement applies to people with Medicaid coverage who are so-called “able-bodied” and able to work up to age 64. It does not apply to children, pregnant women, people deemed medically frail, and one caregiver per household.

In Thursday’s news release, cabinet officials said the delay will give the state more time to create consistent customer service and high-quality services” and help people comply with the new rules. 

A spokesman said a pending legal challenge and the federal government shutdown contributed to the delay, according to the Associated Press.

The community engagement requirement is part of an overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program under Gov. Matt Bevin.

Other changes include requiring some enrollees to make monthly payments — or premiums — for coverage. The premiums were scheduled to take effect in April but officials said enrollees won’t be required to start paying them until May.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is currently working on setting up a premium payment assistance program for Medicaid enrollees who will have to begin making monthly payments. Foundation Vice President for Policy Veronica Cecil said they’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to request financial assistance for Medicaid enrollees.

“Our hope is to have a statewide effort that has very little burden on the Medicaid beneficiary or creates a barrier to the Medicaid beneficiary to access funds that they may need to help provide assistance,” Cecil said.

Cecil said they are also working with Medicaid insurance companies to notify enrollees if they are past due on premiums. Enrollees that make over 100 percent of the federal poverty threshold will have two months to make premium payments, after which they’ll be kicked off coverage for six months. State officials say there will be a way for enrollees to regain coverage by taking a financial or health literacy course.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.