In spite of massive public outcry which included testimony from medical professionals, warnings from vision and dental experts, fact driven data from advocates and pleas from Kentuckians who will be devastated by the loss of their healthcare, Gov. Bevin has submitted a harsh, draconian expanded Medicaid waiver proposal to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for consideration.
In doing so, the governor has made good on his campaign promise to strip healthcare away from 440,000 Kentuckians.
For eight months – beginning with the Senate killing my House Bills 5 and 6, which would have preserved Kynect and expanded Medicaid and secured funding for those programs – and up to this moment, Democratic legislators, Congressman Yarmuth, and an army of champions, advocates, healthcare experts and citizens have daily decried the horrendous consequences of the waiver proposal. But our facts and arguments have fallen on deaf ears.
The governor’s revised proposal changes nothing that would make it any less harmful to Kentuckians or any more agreeable to HHS which must approve the waiver. This stubborn, unyielding, “I’m right, you’re wrong” dictatorship style of governing is Bevin’s reckless gubernatorial response to every situation and it is deeply harming our commonwealth and our people.
The small consolation is that HHS has stated repeatedly, even in their response to this proposal, that a waiver must expand coverage and services, so it is widely assumed they will reject the governor’s submission.
That consolation is fleeting because we know the governor will, upon HHS’ rejection, ultimately act to halt the expanded Medicaid program to appease his political base that believes Medicaid recipients are unworthy. Even as HHS negotiations take place, the countdown to that ultimate reality continues with the inevitable conclusion before us. Hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians – 80% of whom are working – will lose access to healthcare.
The public comment period by HHS will commence in two weeks and I urge Kentuckians to submit their statements against the governor’s proposal. While the odds appear to be woefully stacked against us, we must voice our concern and, yes, outrage over the governor’s politically contrived scheme at the expense of deserving citizens.
I am sadly reminded of the scene in Charles Dickens’ great novel, A Christmas Carol, where the mean, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge asks those soliciting charitable donations for the poor if the work houses are still in operation. The collectors say they are but many would rather die than go there, to which Scrooge replies, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
One wonders how significantly Kentucky’s population will decrease when our citizens are cruelly ejected from the life-saving healthcare they now have. It’s a sobering, sad and frightening conclusion to this political game the governor is playing.
Rep. Darryl Owns represents District 43 in the House of Representatives.