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Yarmuth Calls On Bevin To Withdraw Medicaid Waiver Request

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U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth is calling on Gov. Matt Bevin to withdraw his request for a Medicaid waiver, saying that the federal government will never approve it.

Bevin has applied for the waiver to allow Kentucky to charge monthly premiums to Medicaid recipients earning more than $11,880 a year and remove vision and dental coverage, among other changes.

The proposal also includes a ‘rewards’ account that would allow people to earn vision or dental benefits by doing things like volunteering, applying for jobs or earning a GED.

Yarmuth says he’s communicated with officials at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services and they told him the waiver would not be approved as-is.

“The bottom line is under Medicaid rules, the only way a Medicaid waiver can be granted is if it expands coverage and improves access and care,” Yarmuth said. “This does neither.”

Under the Medicaid expansion, Kentucky has added about 440,000 people to its Medicaid rolls, helping reduce the state’s uninsured population from more than 20 percent in 2013 to 7.5 percent at the end of 2015.

But next year, Kentucky will begin paying a portion of the Medicaid costs that the federal government was previously covering — about $1.2 billion over the next four years, according to the Bevin administration.

Bevin’s waiver proposal estimates the state would save about $300 million between the 2017 and 2021 fiscal years, if approved. Over the same period, the administration estimates the changes would lead to 17,833 fewer people on Medicaid in 2017 and 85,917 fewer in 2021.

“We want the governor to reconsider and at least to negotiate with CMS the terms of the waiver provision, so that many of the onerous provisions that are in the waiver would go away,” Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth and others have pointed out that the federal government has denied similar proposals in Ohio, Arkansas and Arizona.

Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s press secretary, said that Yarmuth was playing politics in the run-up to the November election.

“Gov. Bevin and his team have spent several months developing a transformative and financially sustainable Medicaid plan that will actually improve health outcomes for Kentuckians and encourage self-sufficiency,” Stamper said in a statement. “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has full authority to approve everything in [the waiver].”

Stamper said Bevin remains committed to working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “as long as it takes to transform Kentucky’s Medicaid program to achieve these vital goals.”

Bevin submitted the final proposal for a Medicaid waiver in late August and a comment period on the proposal ended last week.

The Department of Health and Human Services is now reviewing public comments on the waiver and will begin negotiating with the Bevin administration, a process that takes about seven months.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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