Kentucky HEALTH is a program for certain low-income adults and their families. | Photo by Darla Carter

Kentucky’s new work requirement for certain Medicaid recipients will be phased in one county at a time, starting in northern Kentucky this summer.

Months before the requirement arrives in Louisville, “the three largest counties in northern Kentucky will roll out one after the other,” said Kristi Putnam, program manager for the Kentucky HEALTH Medicaid transformation.

Putnam was speaking at a recent stakeholder’s forum in Frankfort, where she said this particular requirement will begin July 1 in Campbell County, followed by Boone County Aug. 1, then Kenton County Sept. 1.

As part of Kentucky HEALTH’s PATH program, individuals will have to complete 80 hours a month of what the state calls “community engagement.”

“Volunteering, care giving, job training, enrolling in classes and working are all qualifying activities,” Putnam said.

The PATH community engagement program will be phased in, starting in northern Kentucky. | Photo by Darla Carter

PATH — Partnering to Advance Training and Health — comes to Jefferson and several other counties Oct. 1.

It is a part of Kentucky HEALTH, the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver, which is being challenged in U.S. District Court by 15 Kentuckians on Medicaid who assert that the Trump administration approved the waiver despite it being in violation of several federal laws. They also argue that the waiver risks the health care of tens of thousands of low-income families.

The state recently rejected a request by a consumer advocacy group, Kentucky Voices for Health, to create a stakeholders advisory council to help with the implementation of Kentucky HEALTH, which stands for Helping to Engage & Achieve Long Term Health. But the state has opted to continue with its current approach, which includes holding forums and sending beneficiaries notices in the mail.

There’s also a website, citizenconnect.ky.gov, where beneficiaries will be able to go to report and check on their progress.

With benefits changing July 1, Putnam said her biggest concern is making sure people understand what the requirements are, so “our focus is going to be on outreach and communication with beneficiaries.”

In addition to PATH, the Kentucky HEALTH program includes ways for people to earn rewards to pay for routine vision and dental services through their My Rewards Account. But people also can incur penalties by, for example, going for unnecessary emergency room visits.

“We want to redirect them to primary care so that they’re not getting into a very high risk health situation,” Putnam said.  “… It’s all part of the trying to emphasize preventive care as opposed to emergency care.”

The community engagement requirement is for able-bodied adults who don’t have an exemption. Some exempt groups include pregnant women, people who are deemed medically frail, former foster youths up to age 26 and the chronically homeless.

People will get a notice in the mail letting them know about the PATH community engagement requirement. They also will receive the address of a Kentucky Career Center to aid them, but there will be alternatives for people who need mobile options, Putnam said.

Kristi Putnam, of the state’s Medicaid transformation team, leans in to answer a question at a recent forum. | Photo by Darla Carter

“We’ve been partnering with our library system,” she said. “We’ve been working with our federally qualified health care centers to find other locations and other places where career coaches can go and actually provide services, so job assessments, job placement services, connection to training and education programs, so this is intended to not be a you have to come to the career center. It’s very much intended to be a we will come to where you are.”

The slow rollout of PATH in northern Kentucky will help the state to do some troubleshooting and allow for weekly meetings to talk through any issues that arise, Putnam said.

This methodical approach, which was requested by the Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board, “allows everybody to focus resources and kind of attention and make sure that one county has all of the supports they need and we are able to respond to any request and just be there on-site,” she said.

“It’ll also allow us to have a pilot period where we’re looking at, ‘OK, is this working as we intended it to? Are there issues we haven’t thought of?’ ”

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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