Medicaid work requirement delayed again as court mulls case

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Facing another legal challenge to its revised Medicaid program, the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin has delayed implementation of its “community engagement” requirements for “able-bodied” beneficiaries to work, volunteer, attend school 80 hours a month unless they are a primary caregiver or in drug treatment.

The requirements were supposed to begin April 1 in Campbell County and gradually spread to other counties. Now they “will begin no sooner than July 1,” and the “rollout schedule is still being finalized,” the Cabinet for Health and Family Services said Thursday.

The revised Medicaid program was originally supposed to begin July 1, 2018, but a federal judge in Washington, D.C., threw out its approval by the Trump administration. It has been re-approved, but is facing another lawsuit from Medicaid beneficiaries that won’t be decided until March, if then.

In a news release, cabinet officials said the delay will give them more time to create “consistent customer service and high-quality services” and help people comply with the new rules. A spokesman told The Associated Press that the court case and the partial federal-government shutdown contributed to the delay.

The cabinet still plans to implement other elements of the revised program on April 1. On that date, people covered by the 2014 Medicaid expansion would have to earn vision and dental services. On May 1, and most would have to start paying monthly, income-based premiums.

The cabinet had planned to start premiums April 1, but now says it is waiving the payment for April. “This will give beneficiaries an opportunity to become familiar with the program prior to being required to make their first monthly premium payments,” the cabinet said in a news release.

“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,” WFPL‘s Lisa Gillespie reports. “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.”

The program is called Kentucky HEALTH, for Helping Engage and Achieve Long Term Health. More information about its implementation timeline is at KentuckyHEALTH.ky.gov.

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Cross-posted from Kentucky Health News. Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.