Representatives from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and Passport Health Plan took questions on the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver during a meeting at Metro United Way in Louisville. | Photo by Darla Carter

Metro United Way is holding meetings this week to give nonprofits a chance to learn more about how they could be affected by the state’s 1115 Medicaid waiver — Kentucky HEALTH — and how they can help participants in the program.

About 50 people gathered at United Way headquarters Tuesday to hear about potential effects on volunteer organizations and their clients. A similar group is expected for a second convening at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

The meetings are being done in conjunction with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, so nonprofits will be in the know as aspects of the program, such as paying premiums, begin July 1.

“I see all these people in the room as the real assisters and they already have the relationships and the trust built,” said Jan Sherrell, senior manager of healthy lives for the United Way. “So people on Medicaid already have that trust and know these faces and so they’re going to go to their agencies” for help.

The Medicaid waiver — which was approved by the Trump administration earlier this year and is being challenged in court — is of interest to nonprofits partly because it will require some people to meet an 80-hour-a-month “community engagement” requirement by working or doing another acceptable activity, such as community service or job training.

Community engagement is being phased in, starting July 1 in northern Kentucky and is expected to reach Louisville Oct. 1.

Because of that requirement, some nonprofits who use volunteers could be getting some new helpers in the form of Medicaid recipients, but information is still trickling down from the state about how they would interface with or handle program participants.

For example, an audience member asked what’s being done about the issue of potentially costly background checks that are customary for some volunteer work.

There was no specific answer given at the meeting, but Beth Kuhn, an executive adviser to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, acknowledged that the topic has come up before, adding, “We really need to understand where we might find resources and opportunities to solve for that.”

Kentucky HEALTH isn’t meant to be onerous for groups that use volunteers, according Kuhn, who spoke during the United Way meeting and was interviewed briefly afterward. For example, it will be up to the Medicaid recipient, not the volunteer organization, to report to the state how many community service hours they worked.

Beth Kuhn, an executive adviser of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, speaks about Kentucky HEALTH at the Metro United Way. | Photo by Darla Carter

“We’re trying to give them (the volunteer organizations) opportunity, not a whole, heavy-duty extra bunch of stuff to do,” Kuhn explained. “But I expect the participants will ask them sometimes to assist.”

In response to an audience member’s question at the meeting, Kuhn said that organizations that are interested in bringing on volunteers could contact their local Kentucky Career Center to let them know about volunteer opportunities that are available.

There also will be some electronic tools available, such as Business Connect, which is supposed to go “live” July 1, Kuhn said.

“This will enable you and your organizations to list your volunteering opportunities in a specialized way if you want special access to Kentucky Health participants,” she said. “If you want to be sort of out there in the general universe of volunteer opportunities, you can do that through MobileServe and other mechanisms that you currently use.” (MobileServe is a tech tool for helping track volunteer work, according to its website.)

With Business Connect, there will be a QR code feature to verify that the Medicaid participant was present at a particular volunteer organization, Kuhn said.

As an organization, “you onboard your opportunity through Business Connect and then once it’s there, a participant can verify their participation by scanning the QR code,” she said. “It basically says, ‘(Jane Doe) was here,’ ” but it does not show the specific number of volunteer hours worked.

“We’re accepting self-verification, so you (the Medicaid recipient) would say, ‘I purple door painted for three hours,’ ” Kuhn said. However, “at some point on the back-end, we’ll be doing random audits.”

Nonprofits took part in a meeting about Kentucky HEALTH at Metro United Way. | Photo by Darla Carter

Because Kentucky HEALTH participants now are starting to receive invoices for premiums that are coming due as the program kicks off July 1, it’s anticipated that the nonprofits will start receiving questions from clients about the state program.

Thus, the need for nonprofits to be knowledgeable, Sherrell said. “You don’t have to know it all, you just have to know where to go to find it.”

The state anticipates that such groups will be contacting them with questions as clients surface with concerns. “I think many of you as you sit with some of your clients and customers will come back to us and say, ‘That doesn’t make sense at all. Could you clarify that a little bit?’ ” she told the audience.

Meanwhile, the state has some information and answers at kentuckyhealth.ky.gov and other materials are being developed, including more information on how to use Business Connect, Kuhn said. “It is a work in progress,” she told the nonprofits. “… You are a request line and a partnership line for us.”

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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