A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bevin administration to reinstate dental and vision care for thousands of Medicaid recipients

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Dental and vision care for thousands of Medicaid recipients in Kentucky will be reinstated by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The benefits were cut at the end of June, following a federal judge blocking Bevin’s plan to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program.  Democrats and public health advocates spoke out firmly against the benefits being sliced to nearly 400,000 recipients.

The change to again allow benefits was announced by the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services late Thursday.

In a press release the Cabinet said: “In order to mitigate the consequences of the judge’s ruling and avoid a prolonged coverage gap prior to the re-approval of Kentucky HEALTH, we have begun the process to reinstate vision and dental coverage, as well as non-emergency transportation services, for those whose benefits were affected by the June 29 court action.”

Gov. Matt Bevin

The Cabinet said making system changes cannot be made overnight and had been working on a temporary solution to restore benefits by Aug. 1.  

“In addition, while dental, vision and non-emergency medical transportation eligibility for those in the Alternative Benefit Plan will not show in the system until August 1, the Cabinet is close to completing a manual system work-around that will allow payment of claims incurred by any eligible Medicaid beneficiary for dental, vision, and nonemergency transportation services incurred during the month of July.”

CHFS officials on Wednesday told the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee they were working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS and the Department of Justice toward a re-approval of the waiver. It was not known if an appeal would be filed by the federal agencies.

Bevin’s plan was to institute requirements including monthly “community engagement” for recipients to keep benefits. That could be accomplished through such things as employment or job training, school and community service There were other changes to the federal system as well.

Kentucky HEALTH would put about 460,000 “able-bodied” adults in a plan with limited benefits that didn’t include dental and vision. However, individuals could earn points toward paying for dental and vision care through volunteer activities in the community or by taking online classes through a “My Rewards” system.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, one of those who spoke against the loss of benefits, said his caucus members are happy to hear the news.

“Our caucus stood loud and firm on this issue because the decision early this month to take away those services with no advance warning created an immediate hardship for those directly affected and caused needless headaches for numerous healthcare providers,” he said.

“The governor and his administration were wrong to blame this cruel action on the federal court ruling that blocked this waiver, but I’m glad they appear to be back on the right track. I’m hopeful that our citizens will not be faced with the devastation of losing these benefits again.”

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