Perhaps we need a reminder about what’s at stake in the attempt to halt proposed Medicaid reforms in Kentucky.
You may remember that, under former President Barack Obama's health care reform law, states were given the option of extending Medicaid coverage to able-bodied adults who don’t work. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear jumped at that offer.
That, as you recall, didn’t sit well with hardworking Kentuckians who put in long hours to keep their bills paid, food on the table, and their children clothed.
Gov. Matt Bevin realized the Medicaid program was costing the state far too much. His administration implemented needed changes that would require able-bodied adults to pay monthly premiums and put in at least 80 hours a month of "community engagement,” which could include working, volunteering or going to school.
Keep in mind, it’s not at all uncommon for hardworking Kentuckians to hold down two jobs to make ends meet. They’re looking at 80 hours a week to support their families. To them, requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work 80 hours a month doesn’t seem onerous at all. Instead, they consider it quite reasonable.
Don’t lose sight of the keywords “able-bodied adults.” This requirement doesn’t apply to anyone who is sick or disabled and truly deserve Medicaid benefits.
So, when headlines popped up this week about Bevin losing another round in the Medicaid legal fight, it wasn’t Bevin who lost. It was hardworking Kentuckians, and it was able-bodied Medicaid recipients who need an extra push to get into the workforce where they can learn to take care of themselves and enjoy the self-respect and satisfaction that comes with that.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Bevin administration that sought to validate the Medicaid reforms. But the fight isn’t over. A related case is still pending in Washington, D.C.
If, in the end, the Medicaid reforms are upheld, the victory would make winners of everyone, especially able-bodied Medicaid recipients who would learn to take care of themselves and their families. Kentuckians deserving of Medicaid would no longer have to live with the constant threat of their benefits disappearing because the system is too overburdened to survive. And Kentucky taxpayers would no longer have to shoulder the cost of providing Medicaid to people who should be working.