Kentucky Gov. Beshear rescinds Medicaid work requirements

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Newly elected Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Monday formally rescinded the state’s controversial Medicaid work requirements enacted by his Republican predecessor, Matt Bevin.

During a news conference, Beshear signed an executive order rescinding the state’s Medicaid waiver that would have imposed work requirements and premiums on many beneficiaries. 

Rescinding the requirements fulfills a promise Beshear made during his campaign and during his victory speech. The work requirements were projected to end coverage for 95,000 people, and save the state $300 million over five years. 

“Removing access doesn’t make people healthier,” Beshear said.

He added the key to getting people off Medicaid is to increase wages, something he pledged his administration will be “laser focused on.”

Medicaid became a key issue during the race between Beshear and Bevin. Beshear took office Dec. 10.  

Beshear ran on defending Medicaid expansion, which his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear (D), brought to the state in 2014, extending health care coverage to an additional 400,000 low-income adults. 

Kentucky was the first state to win approval from the Trump administration to impose work requirements and premiums on beneficiaries, but a protracted legal challenge has prevented them from taking effect. 

Under Bevin’s plan, certain “able-bodied” individuals would have been required to work, volunteer or go to school for at least 20 hours a week, and pay monthly premiums. Failing to meet the requirements would have resulted in lockout periods, which meant recipients could be denied health care coverage for six months. 

A federal judge in D.C. has twice blocked those measures from taking effect, but the Trump administration appealed. An appeals court panel heard oral arguments in October and is currently deliberating. 

After the work requirements were blocked for the first time, in July 2018, Bevin unexpectedly cut Medicaid dental and vision coverage for about 400,000 Kentuckians. He restored the coverage after a backlash. 

Thirty-six states and Washington, D.C., expanded Medicaid to cover more low-income adults under ObamaCare.

But lawmakers in Republican-led states looking to curtail rising health care spending have turned to work requirements as a way to trim Medicaid rolls; since Kentucky’s 2018 approval, the Trump administration has approved work requirements in close to a dozen states. 

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