Gov. Bevin is trying to help all able-bodied Kentuckians who want to declare their independence from government dependency by offering Kentucky HEALTH, a program designed to inject some personal responsibility and savings – the two usually work in tandem – into the commonwealth’s health-insurance policy.
Many of the one in four Kentuckians who now rely on Frankfort for coverage could pay their own way but are incentivized by the recent Medicaid expansion not to do so by offering them benefits paid for by productive taxpayers instead.
Such behavior was encouraged by former Gov. Steve Beshear, Bevin’s predecessor, who implemented program via executive orders and without a vote by the legislature – even though taxpayers are on the hook for such programs.
Had the expansion been put through the legislative process, the issues of whether it was sustainable and how we could keep it from yanking the chains of government dependency even tighter around the working poor’s necks would have been debated.
There are many good reasons why Bevin is right in acting to get rid of the exchange, move its current customers to the federal exchange and reform the state’s Medicaid policy. They all ultimately crawl back to the original problem: unsustainable costs.
Before the exchange even entered its second year, its largest insurers requested double-digit premium increases as sick Kentuckians were pulling up to the trough and turning in large claims for chronic health problems they ignored for years. Meanwhile, the federal government reneged on its promise to increase funding to address the astronomical costs of this expected surge.
The feds also have promised to continue to pick up a major part of the cost incurred by states, like Kentucky, who expanded Medicaid eligibility. Why should we believe them?
If nothing else, consider HEALTH a contingency plan in case Washington’s check doesn’t arrive.
Now that Bevin’s proposing that adults able to work should do so, or at least be productive in volunteering, going to school or getting job training, you would have thought – based on the opposition – that Chicken Little had moved into the governor’s mansion and started shooting up on steroids.
But read the plan for yourself at the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services website, and you will be struck by how similar the HEALTH proposal is to the coverage enjoyed by state workers.
We don’t – and won’t – hear anyone saying state workers have poor benefits.
Some current recipients and representatives of social-welfare groups who think little and care less about the cost of government services are sniveling about Bevin’s fairly modest proposals designed to ensure these programs can continue in some meaningful form.
However, by opposing this plan, opponents stand the chance of losing it altogether as Bevin made it clear: If these reforms aren’t implemented, the Medicaid expansion will be rolled back altogether.
Perish the thought that even low-income individuals might have to accept some responsibility for their own selves by paying small premiums – $15 at the most – to remain in the Kentucky HEALTH plan and receive Medicaid benefits.
Many would pay only about half that amount with – on top of all that – a 60-day grace period before having their accounts suspended.
Responses I’ve heard from some hard-working Kentuckians who take on extra jobs and make other sacrifices in order to afford the hundreds of dollars they pay monthly just to cover their own families is utter disbelief.
They’re livid at the unfairness of it all.
They pay the health-coverage bills of able-bodied adults who jumped on the merry-go-round of government dependency sped up by Beshear’s Medicaid expansion but who now show up at public meetings to squeal about $10 premiums.
Of course, if you’re not working and laying around watching soap opera reruns and eating Twinkies, you can probably pull yourself together long enough to go and protest a policy of personal responsibility in the middle of the day.
Most of us working to pay for their indolence probably won’t be able to make it.