Op-Ed

Bevin ignored concerns about Medicaid plan

Rep. Darryl T. Owens
Rep. Darryl T. Owens

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 health care, Gov. Matt Bevin has submitted a harsh, draconian expanded Medicaid waiver proposal to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for consideration.

In doing so, the governor has made good on his campaign promise to strip health care 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, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth and an army of champions, advocates, health-care experts and citizens have decried the horrendous consequences of the 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 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 percent of whom are working — will lose access to health care.

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 life-saving health care. It’s a sobering, sad and frightening conclusion to this political game the governor is playing.

State Rep. Darryl Owens, D.-Louisville, represents the 43rd District.

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