Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin is throwing in the towel on his Medicaid dental and vision cuts after massive outrage from the hundreds of thousands of people who lost coverage and a defeat in federal court.
In a surprise reversal, Kentucky officials have announced the state will rescind Medicaid cuts that eliminated dental, vision and non-emergency transportation services for nearly 400,000 Kentuckians.
In a statement released late Thursday, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced that "we have begun the process to reinstate vision and dental coverage, as well as non-emergency transportation services."
The statement provided no explanation for reversing cuts officials had insisted were necessary as recently as Wednesday in testimony before a state legislative committee.
It came shortly after the Courier Journal reported sources had said the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin was working on an announcement that the cuts were being rescinded.
Advocates were delighted with the prospect that dental benefits would be restored.
"That is such good news," said Jennifer Hasch, manager of dental services for the Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center in West Louisville. "I think people are going to be thrilled. I think it's weight lifted for our office, both for our patient population and our team."
State Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Shively Democrat, who had criticized the governor for cutting the benefits, said she welcomes the news.
"I'm very pleased if that's true," she said.
Sources told the Courier Journal that the state plans to reinstate the benefits by Aug. 1, but will make them retroactive to July 1, so people can visit the dentist or eye doctor during July and the provider can bill Medicaid for the services. The sources asked not to be identified, saying they were not authorized to comment.
The abrupt cuts effective July 1 created an uproar across Kentucky, catching patients and providers off guard, causing the most disruption in dental services. Dentists were forced to turn away hundreds of patients who had lost benefits overnight, many suffering from pain from severe infection and dental abscesses.
While health advocates say all three services cut—dental, vision and transportation are important—the loss of dental services were most critical because of the very poor dental health of some Kentuckians and the fact that dental abscesses and infection can be life-threatening.
Needless to say, the local news coverage over the last couple of weeks has been brutal. The state's top health official, Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Adam Meier, blew his stack in an angry letter to Kentucky Democrats blaming them and the Louisville Courier-Journal coverage of the cuts for "false information".
It's funny, because Bevin's health care reforms and been nothing but disaster after disaster, with the Kynect elimination and its replacement with the awful benefind system, an online benefits portal so badly designed that tens of thousands lost benefits that they qualified for. Now these cuts have been rolled back because Republicans are getting crushed politically, and Bevin won't admit that, but it's true.
This is good for now, but I can't help but think that Bevin will try again.