A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Courier-Journal: First public hearing, in Bowling Green, on Bevin’s Medicaid reform meets buzz saw

Courier Journal Reporter Deborah Yetter from the first public hearing in Bowling Green yesterday about Gov. Matt Bevin’s Kentucky HEALTH reform of Medicaid:

Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to reshape the state’s Medicaid program ran into a buzz saw of criticism at its first public hearing since the governor announced it last week.

Of the parade of people who spoke at the two-hour hearing at Western Kentucky University, almost no one spoke in favor of the plan aimed largely at those added to the state’s Medicaid program since 2014 under an expansion authorized by the federal Affordable Care Act.

“I thought maybe I’d be one of the few people against it,” said Michael Farmer, 38, a disabled man from Ohio County who gets health care through Medicaid and was among the first to speak. “It turned out almost everyone who spoke turned out to have a problem with it.”

Speakers worried the proposal for a “waiver,” or approval from the federal government to restructure Medicaid in Kentucky, would be too costly for consumers, is overly complicated and eliminates important benefits, such as dental or vision coverage for adults.

“I feel like this waiver is out of touch with the reality of low-income people,” said Jeanie Smith, a Bowling Green woman who said her family benefited temporarily from Medicaid coverage while she was pregnant and her husband was in nursing school. “I am proud of our Medicaid expansion – for once, Kentucky is leading the way.”

State officials who listened to the comments included Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees Medicaid, and Medicaid Commissioner Steve Miller.

Glisson said afterward she wasn’t discouraged by the negative comments and thinks many people may not understand the proposal or simply need more information.

Glisson said she will consider the comments and continue to try to explain the proposal as the state prepares to submit it to federal officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who must approve it. The federal government provides the majority of Kentucky’s Medicaid funds.

“It’s no one’s intent to have barriers to health care,” she said. “I look forward to getting out and meeting with Kentuckians and talking about the plan.”

Bevin has proposed sweeping changes to the $10 billion, federal-state health plan that covers some 1.3 million Kentuckians. He said his goal is to encourage people to make more responsible health choices and learn to use the commercial insurance market.

See the whole story by Deborah Yetter here.

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