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Kentucky's newly-approved Medicaid work requirements could set the tone for the nation

The Trump administration has given Kentucky and Gov. Matt Bevin the green light to implement a work requirement for Medicaid recipients beginning in July. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After receiving federal approval to make some changes to Medicaid, Kentucky will become the first state to be allowed to implement a work requirement for Medicaid recipients. Those requirements, however, face strong criticism from Democratic lawmakers and potential legal challenges down the road.

About the work requirement

Starting in July, some able-bodied adults on Medicaid (many of whom were added under the Obamacare expansion) would have to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week or be enrolled in school or job training to keep their health benefits.

This group would exclude the elderly, disabled, medically frail, pregnant women or some adults caring for children or other relatives, according to USA Today.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's administration estimates the work requirement would impact roughly 200,000 Medicaid recipients added under the Obamacare expansion.

The money it will save

Bevin has previously estimated that the plan could save Kentucky more than $300 million in Medicaid costs over the course of five years.

The plan could result in as many as 95,000 Kentucky residents losing their Medicaid coverage.

Those in favor of the plan say...

  • It will save the state money
  • It will give able-bodied Medicaid recipients the dignity of work, and allow them to "rise up out of poverty," according to Bevin
  • Without the plan, the cost of Medicaid was "not sustainable" for the state
  • It will inject more "personal responsibility" into Medicaid
  • People who work will become healthier

Those against the plan say...

  • People will die because they lost Medicaid coverage
  • It's illegal, because Medicaid is a health law that is not meant to encourage employment
  • Medicaid will become overly complicated and bogged down in red tape, resulting in lost or terminated coverages
  • People who don't receive notification or understand the plan may lose coverage because they don't know to apply for exemptions
  • People need to be healthy in order to work

This all matters because...

Kentucky is just one of more than a dozen states that sought approval for Medicaid work requirements. Seema Verma, the nation's top Medicaid official, said any state seeking the requirements will receive approval from the federal government, which had been denied under the Obama administration.

How things go in Kentucky over the next few years will have a significant impact on the direction other states decide to go with their Medicaid programs.

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