A move by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin to cut the number of Medicaid recipients who can receive dental and vision services will affect thousands in southeastern Kentucky alone.
“About 3,500 of our patients will be directly in the crosshairs of this,” said Mike Caudill, CEO of Whitesburg based Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation.
MCHC is one of the largest rural community health centers in the nation, providing medical care to more than 30,000 patients a year.
The change took effect after a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled June 29 that the Trump administration did not properly consider studies that showed Bevin’s Medicaid waiver request would adversely affect the health of at least 90,000 low-income Kentuckians, and was therefore in conflict with the intent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The waiver was to have taken effect on Sunday, and would have required Medicaid expansion patients, those who earn between 100 and 138 percent of the poverty line, to work or to perform various tasks to “earn” Medicaid.
Bevin had threatened to cut out Medicaid expansion entirely if the judge ruled against him, however after the ruling he announced he would cut around 400,000 people off from access to dental and vision through Medicaid.
MCHC started an optometry program and expanded its dental program after passage of the ACA, commonly called ObamaCare. Caudill said the company had been training for the proposed waiver and had been trying to get as many patients as possible to come in before the waiver took effect. Traditional Medicaid patients will still be able to use Medicaid, but expansion patients will have to pay for the services on a sliding scale.
“It’s going to make a big difference,” Caudill said. “That’s why we’ve been working so hard to get our patients in here before the July 1 date.”
Caudill said there are too many variables to know how the removal of vision and dental from covered services for expansion patients will affect the services that MCHC offers.
“Anytime you start blocking out the number of people that can obtain the services under their Medicaid, it’s going to have an effect,” he said.
Patients now have to pay a monthly premium for Medicaid as well. Patients under the expansion who don’t pay will lose their coverage, and “have to jump through hoops” to get it back, Caudill said.