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June 21, 2018

Kentucky’s Medicaid program covers about 1.4 million low income or disabled individuals

 

FRANKFORT – Health coverage for up to half a million poor Kentuckians could be cut back or eliminated altogether if a federal judge blocks the state from enacting work requirements and other changes aimed at some people covered by Medicaid, the state’s top human services official said Wednesday.

Adam Meier, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told a legislative committee that the state may have to make cuts to offset a budget shortfall in Kentucky’s Medicaid program that covers about 1.4 million low income or disabled individuals.

Those most likely to be affected by such cuts are about 500,000 Kentuckians added to Medicaid since 2014 under an expansion allowed by the Affordable Care Act.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg in Washington, D.C., held a hearing on a legal challenge to Kentucky’s plan and said he hopes to issue a ruling before July 1 – the day Kentucky plans to launch the changes championed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Health law advocates filed a lawsuit challenging Bevin’s plan on behalf of 16 low-income Kentuckians who say they would be harmed by the changes. Lawyers for the National Health Law Program, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center are handling the case.

A court ruling forcing Kentucky to postpone the changes could worsen the budget problem, even if the ruling is temporary, said Meier, who spoke to the joint House-Senate Health and Welfare and Family Services Committee.

“I think we’ll just have to look and see what the budget situation is,” Meier said in an interview after the meeting. “We hope there’s no interruption.”

Meier said any delay would be disruptive, since his cabinet has begun notifying people of the pending changes, how they will be affected and what they must do to comply.

“It means there’s going to be a lot of confusion,” he said.
Bevin, a Republican, has said if a court issues a final ruling blocking his changes under a “waiver” from the federal government, he would terminate the expansion authorized by his predecessor, Democrat Steve Beshear.

Jeremy Learning, communications director for the health law program, said that would only hurt Kentucky.

 

 

“In all states that have expanded Medicaid, the evidence is overwhelming that expansion of Medicaid – paid largely by the federal government – is sharply bringing state health care costs down,” he said. “Bevin’s tired threat to roll back Medicaid expansion if a federal court invalidates Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver scheme reflects an ideological desire to destroy Medicaid, a public program to provide health care to people and families who cannot afford to access the private health care insurance system.”

Meier said the state expects to save money in the state’s $11 billion-a-year Medicaid program through Bevin’s changes, though he couldn’t say yet how much.

If a judge delays the changes, the state will have to find savings elsewhere, Meier said. Meier said in a separate report to the legislative Medicaid Oversight Committee that the state projects a shortfall of about $300 million in Medicaid over the next two budget years.

 

{ At the least, the state likely would have to reduce benefits such as dental, vision and possibly prescription drug coverage for some people, primarily those added since 2014 under the Medicaid expansion, Meier said. }

 

Or, he said, the state could eliminate coverage for the about 500,000 people added under the federal law that permits states to expand Medicaid to anyone at or below 138 percent of the poverty level, an annual income of about $16,400 a year for a single adult.

Under Bevin’s proposed changes, dental and vision care would be eliminated for such adults though they could earn points to buy such services through a “My Rewards” program. They also would be required to pay small monthly premiums or face a potential lockout of coverage.

The primary legal challenge is to the efforts of Bevin and officials in about a dozen other states to enact “community engagement” rules that would require “able-bodied” adults to work, volunteer or attend school at least 20 hours a week. In January, Kentucky became the first state in the nation to win approval from the Trump administration for the work requirements.

Opponents say the work rules are unnecessary because most adults covered through the expansion already work, largely at low-wage or part-time jobs that don’t include health coverage. In court last week, they also argued that federal law doesn’t permit work requirements because Medicaid is a government health plan, not a jobs program.
Bevin already has proposed eliminating the expansion of Medicaid if Kentucky loses the court fight.

In January, when Bevin announced the Trump administration had approved his plans to reshape Medicaid, he issued an executive order calling for the expansion to be dismantled should there be a final court decision blocking his plans.

Bevin has criticized the expansion enacted by his predecessor, Democrat Steve Beshear, as too costly and too generous. But any savings from Bevin’s changes would come largely by eliminating nearly 100,000 people from Medicaid over the next five years, according to the state’s projections.

Under the changes, the state will actually spend more money on Medicaid coverage than it would had it done nothing, according to the state’s projections. Officials say the goal is to get more people to work and onto employer health plans.

Meanwhile, the state projects it will spend more than $300 million over the next two years to upgrade its computer systems to handle the changes.

Meier said Wednesday that the state wants to create “a path to success” for individuals on Medicaid, “We want to get them a job, a better job and a career,” he said.

By Deborah Yetter
Louisville Courier Journal

 

 

June 21, 2018

Border Pain and Our Children

 

By Glenn Mollette

Lots of outrage has been seen and heard around America over the treatment of families illegally entering the United States. President Trump has signed an executive order to keep the families together.

I'm not sure where Americans want to keep these families who took a great risk to enter our country hoping to gain entrance quickly and illegally. It did not work out for them. I know quite a few people who live in our country who have moved here from Mexico, Myanmar and other parts of the world. They are working very hard and are very supportive of the laws of America.

Breaking the law always has some penalty or repercussions. I'm all for keeping border families together. I would never want to see children ripped away from a mother or father. Those crossing the border for the most part are very desperate people in search of a better place.

Every day people fill out the necessary paper work, go through the proper channels and enter our country. Millions of them are now working a job that many Americans no longer want to work which is very sad for our country. However, it's good for those who want to work it seems.

What do we do with these border families now? Do we keep them in full service hotels or house them at a resort property in Disney World? They have left third world countries where conditions apparently were not very good. How much can we be expected to do for people showing up demanding entrance to America? What would you do for people showing up at your front door demanding lodging and meals and even health care? It's hard for most people when family shows up unannounced.

I found in interesting watching the outcry of demonstrators and different media personalities. I have wondered where are the daily cries over how America treats our children and unborn children? Right now while I am writing this there will be about 3000 legalized abortions in America. Add that number times 365 days in our country. There were 652, 639 legalized abortions in 2014 according for the Center for Disease Control.

Seven thousand children are abandoned each year in the United States. China is said to have over twenty million orphans.

How many babies and children spend their first five years in daycare and then are raised essentially by the school? It's a tough day for America's families who are trying to financially survive. However, money, things and attainments never take the place of time with children and families. It's easy to see this looking back.

I'm glad there are Americans who have verbalized their pain concerning the importance of children and parents being together. It's important. Maybe there will be some outrage down the road on the state of America's families who enjoy the privileges daily afforded to our families but for different reasons don't treat their children very well.

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Dr. Glenn Mollette is the author of 12 books. His syndicated column is read in all 50 states.


Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette

 

 

 

June 16, 2018

ARE YOU 'TAX HEALTHY'?

 

Cole HolderCole HolderThe Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 has thrown most Americans for a loop. While there are changes and revisions to the tax code practically every year, this law is the largest overhaul in years.

For those here in our area, there are several key points that will, undoubtedly, affect far more of us than we would think. Now that we're headed into the second half of the year, we should all be taking a look at our financial situation to see where we stand.

Do you remember filling out a W-4 when you first started your job? This is the form where you write your number of 'allowances'. Now, a very common misconception about the W-4 is that it is the same number of dependents you will claim on your return. While your allowances is loosely based on dependents, there are definitely some differences. The W-4 is huge because it is what will, hopefully, ensure you have paid enough in federal withholding so you don't owe taxes at the end of the year. The TCJA made some major changes to tax brackets and, if you've been on the line in previous years, it's definitely time to reevaluate this form. Along with these changes, the IRS released a revised version of the W-4, which you can find by visiting www.irs.gov. The site even has a calculator that can be used to make adjustments if you've started a new job or are just now getting around to changing your W-4.

One group of workers that are likely to be affected in a big way are coal miners, pipeliners, and other workers who routinely work out-of-town and/or have large expenses related to their job.

Higher wage earners who must buy special equipment (such as helmets or steel-toe boots) were likely to have filed a Schedule A, or itemized their deductions. The TCJA has, basically, doubled the standard deduction, however, meaning many who have itemized in the past will not benefit from doing so now. Further, there were changes to what can be itemized. For instance, if your employer does not reimburse you for those steel-toe boots or your gas to the job site 4 hours away, you can no longer claim these expenses on your tax return.

This, however, is not to be confused with those who will file a Schedule C. Lawrence County and surrounding areas have seen a major influx of small business owners, specifically with companies such as Paparazzi, Lula Roe, and other similar franchises. These entrepreneurs can still claim all their legitimate business expenses as deductions. Further, even if you didn't make much more than pocket change, you may still be required to claim these earnings on your return. There is no absolute definition that distinguishes between hobby income and self-employment income so it's highly recommended to seek professional advice in determining whether or not you need to claim this income. There are also many expenses that you may not even realize you can deduct, such as a portion of your personal cell phone bill if you also used it for business.

You may also reap the benefits when it comes to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by claiming this income on your return. This would especially hold true, for instance, with stay-at-home moms who don't typically hold a regular 9-5 job. Another major issue affecting those who own their own businesses is the self-employment tax. We often think of our tax system as one where you just 'settle up' at the end of the tax year, but this isn't the case. We are actually a 'pay-as-you-go' tax system and the IRS absolutely expects quarterly estimated payments.

For those who earn enough, you may also be entitled to the Child Tax Credit. In prior years, this credit was refundable (meaning you get back money you may not have actually put in) up to $1,000. This year, however, some will see this credit refunded up to $1,400 per qualifying child.

The simple truth of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is that it will affect each and every taxpayer. Some will benefit and some will be hurt by it. Our best advice is to go ahead and check-in with your tax professional now. There's still time to make sure you're paying enough in to not pay it later and reputable tax preparers will gladly walk you through it now, before it's too late.

 

 

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