When a thunderclap could be heard inside the Capitol Rotunda during Matt Bevin’s news conference about his proposal for a “waiver” from the federal government to revise Kentucky’s Medicaid plan, the Republican governor flashed a smug grin and said, “I think God is weighing in on this, and agrees with everything I just said.”
Or, maybe it was a sign of anger from the Almighty. The Good Lord would have reason to be upset: Bevin’s plan would allow Medicaid, which currently covers 1.3 million Kentuckians, to begin charging a monthly premium for coverage that is now largely free. It also would allow a “lockout” that would cut off Medicaid coverage for those who can’t pay on time. His plan would scale back coverage to that offered to state employees. His proposal offers no dental and vision coverage, which are now included in Medicaid.
Then Gov. Bevin’s senior Medicaid advisor, Mark Birdwhistell, added insult to injury. He said when people lose coverage they could enroll in a financial literacy class. He called it a “teaching opportunity.” Gov. Bevin added that this would allow people to gain “dignity and respect.”
What do health experts say about Bevin’s proposal? As Deborah Yetter reported in the Courier-Journal, they are upset about it.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Bill Wagner, executive director of Family Health Centers, a Louisville network of community clinics that serves about 40,000 patients a year. “I’m most disappointed that they’ve introduced premiums and lockouts.”
The plan also requires working people whose employers offer health coverage to take it after a year on Medicaid. That really bothers Wagner, who says that most low-income people can’t afford to pay for the plans offered by employers, which usually come with high premiums, big deductibles and large co-pays.
“It’s very alarming,” said Wagner. “It’s going to lead to less coverage in the state.”
Sheila Schuster, a longtime Kentucky health advocate and member of the group Kentucky Voices for Health, said Bevin’s proposal creates many barriers. “We don’t want barriers to health care.”
The good news is that the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services must approve the changes. A spokesperson for the agency, Ben Wakana, used the word “backwards” to describe Bevin’s plan. “As we have said many times, Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion has led to one of the biggest reductions of uninsured people in America,” Wakana said. “We are hopeful that Kentucky will ultimately choose to build on its historic improvements in health coverage and health care, rather than go backwards.”
YES. Maybe we should start calling him “Backwards Bevin.”