FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky’s Secretary for Health and Family Servicesraised the possibility Wednesday of cuts to the state’s Medicaid program.

Secretary Adam Meier told lawmakers during a hearing at the Capitol that if a judge rules against Kentucky in a lawsuit challenging changes to the Medicaid program, then benefits will be reduced.

The so-called 1115 waiver, dubbed “Kentucky HEALTH,” is set to kick in starting July 1. The changes include requiring some able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work, take classes or do community service in order to receive their benefits. Some recipients will also be charged small premiums.

But activists have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the changes, claiming the federal government wrongly approved the waiver.

“We think this program was in total, and in each of the parts, outside of what the law allows,” said Cara Stewart, an attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, which is representing the plaintiffs.

Meier said if U.S. District Judge James Boasberg blocks the changes, then Medicaid benefits will be cut.

“Dental coverage, vision coverage, potentially pharmacy coverage ... there's a host of other optional benefit categories we'll have to evaluate,” Meier said.

Meier said the reductions could affect up to 500,000 low-income adults in Kentucky. He said the Medicaid changes are designed to save the state money. Without them, there could be a several-hundred-million-dollar hole in the budget.

“What we have to evaluate is what can we do within our resources,” Meier said.

Rep. Joni Jenkins opposes the changes and supports the lawsuit. She hopes the cabinet does not move too quickly to roll back coverage.

“It is very frightening," she said. "It is very, very frightening."

Boasberg heard the case June 15 and said he will rule before July 1, when the changes are to take effect. Whoever loses will likely appeal.

“It means there's going to be public confusion, and then it means that pretty quickly we're going to have to adjust benefit packages,” Meier said. 

Unless the judge blocks the rollout, the Medicaid changes will begin first in northern Kentucky, and then come to the Louisville area in October.

If Kentucky loses the case after the appeals are exhausted, Gov. Matt Bevin has already issued an executive order rolling back the Medicaid expansion that occurred as part of Obamacare.

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