For the past four years, Kentucky officials have attempted a policy that some Medicaid recipients must work or do community service in order to maintain their health coverage. It was a pillar of Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s political priorities, but since Bevin was leaving office soon and Democratic Governor-elect Andy Beshear opposed the request, it would be a matter for lawmakers to continue those efforts.
It appears, however, that the Republican lawmakers who would have to wage this legislative battle have little appetite.
On Monday, a group of lawmakers did not recommend Kentucky lawmakers codify job requirements in the Medicaid program.
Over the past seven months, the task force heard from numerous experts about job requirements in various public assistance programs, including Medicaid. At the time, Republicans were trying to enforce a bill that would have translated Medicaid’s labor requirements into state law. Bevin’s signature program has not yet been implemented due to legal challenges.
The group’s recommendation comes a week after Bevin Beshear approves gubernatorial elections. Beshear is currently working to lift the Medicaid changes in his first week of office, according to an email from his transition team spokeswoman. This means that Medicaid will remain unchanged for the time being.
Republican Rep. David Meade, co-chair of the Public Aid Reform Task Force, said it was possible that Republicans could come up with another bill to call for job requirements during the legislative process, but this doesn’t seem to be a given.
“I don’t know how much we’re hungry for it right now,” said Meade. “What we’re focusing on right now is the budget, and that’s currently consuming most of our time.”
GOP Senator Stephen Meredith, co-chair of the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee, said he never really endorsed Medicaid’s proposal for work requirements and he doesn’t see Republicans wanting to legislate the requirements.
“I don’t see strong sentiment within the legislature to adopt this program,” Meredith said. “It’s one of those things that may sound good in theory, but not so good in terms of practical application.”
But the job requirements are still supported by some.
“I think too often that we are telling it [Medicaid recipients] “You have nothing to contribute” and we give you handouts and I just think I think it’s something [that] needs research and further investigation, ”said Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, a Belton Republican. “Honestly, I don’t know, it will just depend on who is brought into the cabinet [of Health and Family Services] and when they are ready to work with it. ”
The Public Support Task Force made several recommendations Monday that did not address Medicaid. This included ordering the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create a card for all public assistance benefits. It was also recommended that a separate committee investigate the benefit cliff, which discourages people from Medicaid coverage when their income increases even slightly above a certain threshold.