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Medicaid expansion threatened by last-minute move in Frankfort, advocacy group says

The Capitol building in Frankfort | Photo by Olivia Krauth

The Kentucky Equal Justice Center is sounding the alarm about a new House floor amendment to a bill that it says will make it easier for Gov. Matt Bevin to repeal Medicaid expansion.

The center sent out an emergency alert Thursday afternoon urging members to call their legislators to protest a floor amendment attached to Senate Bill 167, an uncontroversial bill that passed the full Senate by a unanimous vote last month.

The amendment, filed by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, would give Adam Meier, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the discretion to turn down federal funds.

That would be a change from current federal law that says the Bevin administration must “take advantage of all federal funds that may be available for medical assistance,” according to the center.

“Changing the state’s policy from pursuing ‘all federal funds’ to one where the Governor has discretion to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to federal funds will make it easier for Governor Bevin to make good on his dangerous promise to take away health coverage from almost half a million Kentuckians,” according to a blog post by Ben Carter, a lawyer for the center.

Bevin filed an executive order last year saying that the state would end Medicaid expansion if any portion of his planned Medicaid overhaul, Kentucky HEALTH, was rejected by a judge.

The order was in response to a federal lawsuit by more than a dozen Medicaid recipients, who said the Trump administration’s January approval of the Medicaid waiver was illegal and would threaten the health care of thousands of Kentuckians.

Judge James Boasberg sided with the plaintiffs, sending Kentucky HEALTH back to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for further review. But the plan was re-approved in November and parts of it are scheduled to start in April unless a second legal challenge is successful.

The Kentucky Equal Justice Center is representing the plaintiffs in the legal challenge, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Health Law Program.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville — the sponsor of SB 167 that the new amendment is attached to in the House — told Insider Thursday afternoon that she was unaware of that amendment. After reading it, she stated to Insider Louisville that “I just told the cabinet that they should put it somewhere else. I don’t like last-minute surprises.”

Joe Sonka contributed reporting.

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