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Confusion Amid Federal Judge's Ruling on Medicaid Work Requirements

The state says Medicaid recipients who received a Kentucky HEALTH eligibility notice in the mail should disregard it. (@lizzieallenphoto/Twenty20)
The state says Medicaid recipients who received a Kentucky HEALTH eligibility notice in the mail should disregard it. (@lizzieallenphoto/Twenty20)
April 4, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky HEALTH program, which would have required Medicaid recipients to work or volunteer in order to get health coverage, will not begin this week.

A federal judge recently blocked implementation of the program, originally slated to go into effect Mon., Apr. 1. And yet, many Commonwealth residents remain confused about their eligibility.

Bree Pearsall and her husband are farmers in Oldham County, growing vegetables and raising sheep. She said since 2015, her family, including two small children, have received health care through Medicaid.

"As full-time farmers, we will always be in search of health care outside of the employer-sponsored model," Pearsall said.

The state said the court decision means nothing has changed regarding Medicaid coverage or benefits, and anyone who received a Kentucky HEALTH eligibility notice in the mail should disregard it.

There is now a red banner on the Kentucky HEALTH website, alerting online visitors that there will be no changes to their Medicaid status. However, many Medicaid recipients may still be in the dark.

Pearsall said she's relieved about the judge's decision, but thinks the state has made figuring out Medicaid eligibility perplexing and, for some, nearly incomprehensible.

She said she first became aware of the governor's proposed Medicaid changes after the birth of her son, and noted that there are many other families like hers, who feel uncertain about their coverage status.

"I know the desperate feeling and the stress of coming home from the hospital to care for a newborn baby, while receiving daily, confusing letters in the mail from the state Cabinet, informing us that our new son is no longer eligible for Medicaid coverage," she added.

Pearsall pointed out that farming is hard work without much financial reward, and said the last thing small-scale Kentucky farmers need is to lose access to health care.

"And for many small, family farms like ours, particularly for beginning farmers just starting out, the profit margins are thin," she explained. "Every year we pay our employees, our debts, and invest in equipment and farm infrastructure – and at the end, there's a little bit of money to take home."

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services released a statement saying it is currently considering next steps and the possibility of appealing the court decision.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY