LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A federal judge blocking Kentucky's latest attempt to tie Medicaid coverage to work creates more confusion and concern for many patient's paying their medical bills with state benefits.
Millie Barnett is just one person who's paying close attention to the recent developments. The 28-year-old social worker just recently graduated from college, but she's been hospitalized several times in the last year by an autoimmune disorder.
"My immune system could just attack my blood cell count," Barnett said. "I could die easily."
Barnett said medications for her condition run between $300 and $700, and those medical bills are paid for medicaid as a passport recipient. Barnett said she works but still qualifies for government-funded insurance due to the low pay.
"I never know when I'm going to stop getting my coverage," she said. "They see it as a privilege, and it's not. It's health coverage."
Wednesday's decision in Washington D.C. by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg provides a bit of relief for Barnett. It blocks federal waiver approved by President Donald Trump's administration that could have purged roughly 95,000 Kentucky residents from the state's Medicaid rolls.
The waiver would have allowed provision of the Kentucky HEALTH program to be enacted that would have required some Medicaid recipients to work, volunteer or be enrolled in training to continue getting coverage.
In his ruling, Boasberg said the federal waiver did not address Medicaid's "core" objective "providing medical coverage to the needy."
"I hope Kentucky HEALTH is never implemented," said Angela Cooper, the state outreach and education director for Kentucky Voices for Health. "It's dangerous. It's a dangerous program. It's bad policy."
It's the second time in nine months the court has blocked the waiver, but Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's administration shows no signs of relenting.
"Although a setback to our implementation schedule, we believe that we have an excellent record for appeal and are currently considering next steps," Kentucky Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Adam Meier said in a statement.
Kentucky was held up as a national model for medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Problems with the launch and the website to register new benefit receipts didn't plague the commonwealth like other states, and thousands of people received access to care they didn't have before. Even as the new Kentucky Health sits in limbo, some have seen positives for Medicaid recipients
"There are Medicaid beneficiaries who accessed resources as a result of the waiver including training, resume building, job opportunities," said Veronica Cecil, vice president for public policy for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
But both sides agree that the waiver has caused mass confusion for patients. The Kentucky HEALTH program was supposed to start Monday. The state sent Medicaid recipients notices about coverage just this week. It's now outdated information.
Bevin's administration has said in the past that if the waiver was denied by the courts, then the state would rollback medicaid expansion.
"You're putting tons of people in that roller coaster, and it's really stressful and overwhelming," Barnett said.
What happens in Kentucky could set precedent for the nation. Trump's administration has approved eight states for similar work requirements. Seven more are pending.
Arkansas implemented its Medicaid waiver last summer, and more than 18,000 people lost their insurance coverage. It was also shot down Wednesday by a federal court.
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