CMS reapproves Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky

After a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements from going into effect earlier this year, CMS reapproved the program on Nov. 20.

The agency began allowing work requirement programs at the beginning over the year––a controversial decision that has been meant with backlash from industry associations and consumer advocates. The programs require a certain cohort of Medicaid beneficiaries to report at least 80 hours of work or work-related activities per month. Noncompliance with the program of three months over the course of a year could lead to loss of Medicaid benefits.

Besides Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Wisconsin and New Hampshire have approved waivers from CMS for work requirement programs. In Arkansas, the first state to implement such a program in June, thousands of residents lost health insurance coverage after the first couple months.

Kentucky, like CMS, maintains that the program creates new opportunities and “pathways” for residents to find employment.

“Kentucky HEALTH creates an opportunity for Kentuckians to actively engage in their health as well as gain new skills to help transition them successfully into Kentucky’s workforce,” Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Derrick K. Ramsey said in a statement. “Through PATH Community Engagement, we are creating additional pathways to help connect individuals with long-term employment opportunities and training services using programs, resources, and tools that are available in local communities.”

Kentucky’s new program, Kentucky HEALTH, is slated to start on April 1. Its newly approved waiver varies little from its original in that some beneficiaries will have to report 80 hours of work per month. However, Kentucky will submit a demonstration plan and implement a monitoring protocol.

According to the state, the program is expected to save Medicaid more than $2 billion during the five-year period, as well as $300 million in savings to Kentucky’s General Fund.