The coming change of leadership in the White House has improved chances of federal approval of his plan to overhaul Kentucky’s Medicaid program, Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday.
The Republican governor also said “changes” must be made to the state’s ailing pension systems. It was reported earlier this week that the state’s pension debt has grown to $32.6 billion, one of the worst in the nation.
Bevin spoke to reporters Tuesday in a news conference that touched on several issues.
Concerning his request for a federal waiver to change Kentucky’s Medicaid program, Bevin said it is still pending with Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration and “good and substantive discussions” are ongoing.
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Asked if he thinks its chances improve with Republican Donald Trump as president, Bevin said, “Oh, you bet you.”
He noted that he has talked with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence about more responsibility for states in developing health care plans, but not specifically about the state’s waiver request.
States are likely to see more block grants from the federal government to decide how health dollars are spent, he said.
Bevin said he did not know if the outgoing Obama administration will weigh in on Kentucky’s waiver request. He said the Obama administration may approve a part of it that deals with the state’s opioid abuse epidemic.
Bevin has said the expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky brought about by former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, is not sustainable.
His waiver request would allow Kentucky to charge monthly premiums to Medicaid recipients earning more than $11,880 a year and remove vision and dental coverage, among other changes.
It also includes a ‘rewards’ account that would allow people to earn vision or dental benefits by doing things like volunteering, applying for jobs or earning a GED.
Bevin said he was not surprised with the gloomy news earlier in the week about the state’s worsening pension problems.
Pension reforms must be made, he said, noting that there are fewer than 1.5 active teachers for every retired teacher. “That will not work,” he said.
The Bevin administration and state lawmakers put more than $1.42 billion in the pension systems this year. But Bevin called that “a drop in the bucket.”
He said the state has “a moral and legal obligation” to fulfill its pension pledges to retired employees but he said current and future employees might be affected.
“Change is coming. What it exactly looks like will be driven by the legislative process,” he said.
Bevin also commented on the death of longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. He called people who are praising Castro “idiots.”