A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

John Schickel: Kentucky’s pension crisis, budget ‘explosion’ remain state’s major issues

Benjamin Franklin is said to have said “when people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of a republic.” I hope and pray that is not where we are as a country, but recent developments in Frankfort this year would tend to indicate we are heading down that path. Next to the pension crisis, the explosion in the budget to cover Medicaid — a jointly funded, Federal-State health insurance program for low-income and needy people — has to rank a close second in major problems facing the Commonwealth.

A little background on the problem: former Governor Beshear expanded Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s Obamacare program to cover thousands of Kentuckians who previously were not insured. The problem, as predicted, is that federal funding dried up and the state was solely left to fund these expanded services. With the present drug crisis, Medicaid has been expanded to include drug addiction treatment and, with drug addiction treatment being less than 40 percent effective the first time, these costs alone have been exorbitant.

Kentucky’s Medicaid costs have more than doubled in recent years. The 2018 State Budget allocated $3.9 billion for the program over the biennium, making up the second-largest percentage of the state’s budget only behind K-12 education. For those of us who are conservative constitutionalists, this is very troublesome because Medicaid is not a constitutional responsibility of government as defined by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Because of Medicaid’s financial demand, actual constitutional responsibilities of the government—such as public protection—are being shortchanged and underfunded.

Governor Matt Bevin, trying to get a handle on this situation, proposed a very commonsense solution to help solve the problem called Kentucky HEALTH. Kentucky HEALTH is a new part of Kentucky’s Medicaid program. HEALTH stands for Helping to Engage and Achieve Long-Term Health. The program is designed to strengthen Medicaid for all and to support and encourage beneficiaries as they improve their incomes and health. Under this program, if you are able-bodied, have no children or childcare responsibilities, you have to contribute something to receive the free benefits from the state. When he first proposed this, I thought it was a fantastic idea that would be met with little opposition.

I was very wrong. Governor Bevin has met opposition to this program at virtually every turn from all types of liberal advocacy groups somehow trying to rationalize that able-bodied people with no childcare responsibilities should receive these free medical benefits from the state without contributing anything in return.

The program may be tied up in court. This has been frustrating for me to watch, and I compliment the governor for his persistence and courage in taking on this problem. If we succeed, Kentucky will become a model for the nation as the first state to successfully implement such a program. Everyone wins—both the person receiving the benefits and the taxpayers paying for the benefit. Let us all hope, for the good of the Commonwealth, this program is successful.

On a lighter note, I look forward to seeing everyone at the Union Independence Day Parade on Friday, June 29, which begins at 7 p.m. and will follow the traditional route from the old Union Kroger store to downtown. Look for me in the white cowboy hat. There will be live music downtown until dark with a great fireworks display at dark. Happy Fourth of July, Boone County!!

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or send me a message. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov. Follow me on social media: @SenatorSchickel on Twitter and on Facebook.

Senator John Schickel represents Kentucky’s 11th District in Boone County. He is chairman of the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee


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One Comment

  1. Tom Coe says:

    The federal funding dried up; what? What a lie! The federal government will continue to pay the vast majority of the cost of medicare.

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