Politics & Government

Judge denies Beshear's request to dismiss lawsuit against Medicaid expansion


FRANKFORT — Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd denied a request Monday by Gov. Steve Beshear to dismiss a Tea Party activist's lawsuit challenging Beshear's expansion of the state Medicaid rolls.

In May, Shepherd also denied a motion by Beshear to dismiss another lawsuit filed by activist David Adams that challenged the legality of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

The Medicaid expansion and creation of the exchange are part of the controversial federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Beshear's two defeats mean that both lawsuits will continue in Franklin Circuit Court.

The governor argued in seeking the dismissal that Adams lacks standing to sue and that the case is not ripe for adjudication. Adams argued that the Medicaid expansion is unconstitutional because it did not receive legislative approval.

"The record clearly shows Gov. Beshear's attorney argued in court that he doesn't recognize the value of citizens' rights at all," Adams said in an email. "The judge rejected that argument, so now we go on to see if the executive and legislative branches can keep robbing us to buy votes for themselves. I don't think they can."

Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said in an email that the governor disagrees "with this procedural decision."

"The law could not be more clear — the governor has the authority to change eligibility for Medicaid, because those rules are set in regulation, not in statute," Richardson said. "Even the Senate president has conceded that the governor has the authority to expand the program."

In May, Beshear announced that Kentucky would expand the federal and state Medicaid program to provide coverage to an estimated 308,000 Kentuckians without health insurance, beginning in 2014. Beshear said the cost to state government over eight years, beginning in 2017, should be about $473 million. The federal government will pay for 100 percent of expansion costs for the first three years, and then will gradually decrease funding to 90 percent in 2020.

Last July, Beshear issued an executive order to establish the health benefit exchange. The exchange is expected to help 332,000 Kentuckians find health care coverage. Open enrollment on the exchange begins Oct. 1, with insurance plans taking effect as soon as Jan. 1.