Veronica Cecil of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky speaks about the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver, also known as the Kentucky HEALTH program. | Photo by Darla Carter

Within a few months, a system could be in place to provide payment assistance to Medicaid recipients who can’t afford to pay monthly premiums being imposed as part of the state’s new Kentucky HEALTH program.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is working on a plan to provide some assistance and is encouraging other organizations to consider helping cover the charges, which are now arriving in the mail.

“As much as we want to be a statewide force in that area, I just think we’re not going to be able to do it all,” the foundation’s Veronica Cecil said at a meeting in Louisville earlier this week. Having additional organizations step in to assist will be “critical.”

Paying for the monthly premiums, typically of $1 to $15, may not be easy for low-income Medicaid recipients, who sometimes have unstable work hours and other challenges.

“For those people who are in that category of say the $15 premium, that’s still going to be in many cases a hardship,” said Ron Loughry, executive director of Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries. His comment came during a Tuesday meeting on Kentucky HEALTH at Metro United Way.

Kentucky HEALTH is the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver, approved by the Trump administration this year and facing a possible court ruling this week. Benefit changes start July 1, while a “community engagement” or work requirement is being phased in across the state, with its arrival expected in Louisville Oct. 1.

“The first (premium) payment is due July 1,” said Michael Rabkin, a spokesman for Passport Health Plan, one of five managed care organizations involved in Kentucky HEALTH. “Members have 60 days to pay, so they have July and August, but there’ll be another one (bill) coming out July 15 for that Aug. 1 payment.”

Ben Chandler (at podium) and Gov. Matt Bevin announcing the partnership of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Bevin administration on the implementation of the Kentucky HEALTH program | Photo by Joe Sonka

The nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky recently began partnering with the state to help with Kentucky HEALTH, with the stated goal of keeping people from losing coverage. It is forming the Kentucky Health Engagement Foundation (KHEF) to perform various functions related to that and Cecil was selected to be the new entity’s executive director.

“One of the functions (of KHEF) will be the creation of a third-party contribution process to assist Medicaid beneficiaries struggling with paying premiums,” the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky said in an emailed statement.

“The Foundation is completing the necessary steps to create the new entity and will be raising funds towards this effort. In addition, the Foundation is developing the framework to ensure statewide availability of this resource. The Foundation hopes to have something in place in the next 60 days.”

In the meeting this week, Cecil said that it would be necessary to come up with some criteria and to be good stewards of money that comes in to help with the premium-assistance effort. She also spoke of a desire to “provide the best help for people.”

As for the prospect of other groups assisting, the foundation said in its email: “Some providers and community organizations have discussed offering premium payment assistance, and the Foundation encourages them to fill in the gap and help identify and address a beneficiary’s financial need.”

Loughry said the Association of Community Ministries, a local network of more than a dozen ministries, is pondering how it might be able to help with premiums.

But “is this something that we would have the capacity to do funding-wise?” Loughry wondered aloud after the meeting.

“As it stands, no we don’t,” but maybe there are grants or partnerships out there, he said. “We’re just in the exploratory stage but recognizing time’s coming.”

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.


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