On Friday, Kentucky became the first state in the nation, and in the nation’s history, to win permission from the federal government to impose a work requirement and several other new restrictions on its Medicaid program.
“It will be transformational in all the right ways,” Governor Matt Bevin (R) said in a speech announcing the waiver approval. “It has been long overdue.”
Friday’s announcement, which by the state’s own estimate will result in more than 90,000 people losing Medicaid coverage, is yet another marker in a massive about-face for health care in the state. Kentucky—which just a few years ago made headlines as an Obamacare “success story,” launching its own health insurance exchange and expanding Medicaid to more than 400,000 low-income residents—has seen a sharp reversal since electing a Tea Party governor in 2015.
With a whopping one-third of the state’s population now enrolled in Medicaid, and with state resources strained by a full-blown opioid addiction crisis, the fate of the new Medicaid work requirements will determine the future of health care not just for Kentucky but the nine states and counting who have their own waiver applications pending before Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services.
“Kentucky will soon be the unfortunate poster child of this dangerous policy,” lamented Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY). “My only hope is that the chaos caused by this policy and the desperation of the Kentucky families who will soon lose their only access to health coverage will force Governor Bevin to demonstrate some level of compassion and reverse this disgraceful policy.”
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