- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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July 24

Lexington Herald-Leader on the economics surrounding Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan for Kentucky’s Medicaid program:

Conservatives should ask themselves: Just how much tax money are they willing to spend to deny people health care?

This question is becoming more urgent as the Trump administration encourages states to follow Gov. Matt Bevin’s lead by enacting work requirements and other bureaucratic barriers to health care for low-income people.

The cost of Bevin’s Medicaid red-tape machine recently caught the eye of Fitch Ratings.

The credit rating agency reports that Kentucky’s Medicaid administrative costs are rising 40 percent or $35 million from the previous biennium, mostly attributable to the cost of Bevin’s proposal for new “engagement” requirements, frequent income reporting deadlines, collecting small premiums and co-pays, and temporarily locking out from coverage those who fail to comply.

The cost of keeping track of all that is significant and “could limit savings from enrollment declines,” says the credit rating agency, while “potentially raising the number of uninsured.”

Bevin’s plan, which is expected to reduce Medicaid enrollment by 95,000 people over five years, was set to begin July 1 but is on hold because of a federal court order.

Fitch noted that Kentucky’s uninsured rate fell from 16.6 percent in 2013 to 7.2 percent in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, because of growth in Medicaid enrollment during the Affordable Care Act expansion. “Fitch has previously noted that improved insured rates, and ACA expansion in particular, led to improvement in hospitals’ operating performance.”

The Bevin administration estimates that the plan, known as an 1115 waiver, would save Kentucky $300 million to $400 million over five years. But that decline in state spending would cost Kentucky $2 billion in lost federal support for Medicaid, which provides health care to low income, elderly and disabled individuals.

That’s $2 billion that would be lost to the hospitals, doctors, clinics, dentists and others who provide health care to low-income Kentuckians and their neighbors.

The potential harm to hospitals suggests an obvious solution. Kentucky’s hospital provider tax has been frozen since 2007 at $183 million, the amount hospitals paid based on their revenue in 2005-06.

Kentucky hospitals’ revenue has significantly increased since then, in no small part because of the Medicaid expansion. Other states have used provider taxes to pay for Medicaid expansion. The provider tax flows into a restricted fund that supports health care and is returned to providers.

Adam Meier, Bevin’s secretary of Health and Family Services, said on the July 23 edition of Kentucky Tonight that the waiver is needed to “mitigate” a $300 million shortfall in Medicaid and that without it benefits or eligibility for Medicaid might have to be cut back.

Meier and other defenders of the plan say it will spur individuals to become more engaged in and responsible for their own health. In reality, the new requirements will mostly snag people who are too busy or sick to keep up with the paperwork.

Bevin has threatened to end coverage altogether for the almost 500,000 working-poor Kentuckians in the Medicaid expansion if he can’t have his waiver.

Hospitals should be clamoring to raise a tax that comes right back to them and could preserve almost $400 million a year in federal health care funding for Kentucky.

Conservatives should be asking if it’s really smart to spend more to get less of a critical service.

Online: http://www.kentucky.com/

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July 23

The Daily Independent of Ashland on the Bevin administration reversing its decision to cut dental and vision care benefits to hundreds of thousands of Medicaid recipients:

The Associated Press reported late last week that the administration of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has suddenly reversed its controversial decision to cut dental and vision care benefits to hundreds of thousands of Medicaid recipients.

The dental and vision coverage was cut in July when a federal judge deterred Bevin’s proposal to reform the Commonwealth’s Medicaid system. It was a bad decision from the get go, not to mention a political disaster. As we’ve written previously, our view was the action came across as cold hearted and not very well thought out.

The AP said Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services reversed course Thursday on the cuts to services for nearly 400,000 Kentuckians. The state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services said the dental and vision coverage is being restored to “mitigate the consequences” of the judge’s ruling. The state also reinstated non-emergency transportation services for those recipients.

The reinstatement of benefits will be retroactive to the first of July.

The following passage, also from the AP, provides more background:

Bevin’s administration has said its Medicaid overhaul had offered “a sustainable path” to provide the dental and vision benefits, but noted the judge’s ruling meant there was “no longer a viable method” to provide the services.

The federal health care law championed by former President Barack Obama gave states the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to able-bodied adults. Kentucky, under former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, was among states that did so, and nearly 500,000 Kentuckians received Medicaid coverage as a result.

But Bevin, elected in 2015, said the program was too expensive to continue. He sought permission to impose new rules, including charging monthly premiums and requiring at least 80 hours of “community engagement” per month, which could include working, volunteering or going to school.

His administration has said Kentucky faces a $300 million shortfall in Medicaid over the next two years, and the new rules would have helped the state save money.

We sound like a broken record on this but what America needs is a bipartisan solution on healthcare. The healthcare market is not going to be completely privatized. Not happening. Meanwhile, Obamacare is not working, in our view, and is not sustainable. The federal government and state governments also cannot afford to subsidize every person’s visit to a doctor. There needs to be a middle ground.

Bevin, to his credit, is trying to do something, but the cuts to dental and vision benefit services was poorly thought out and came across as vindictive. With the benefits restored, the administration needs to move forward on common sense reforms available to the Commonwealth that are within the confines of the law as it is now, and which also take into consideration the well-being of the state’s residents.

Online: http://www.dailyindependent.com/

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July 20

Bowling Green Daily News on Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s use of racial slur against African-Americans:

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter was living the American dream in every sense of the word.

In 1984, at 23 years old, Schnatter founded Papa John‘s. The story of how he built what is now the third-largest pizza chain in the world is an interesting one. He started the company when he converted a broom closet in the back of his father’s tavern. Schnatter sold his 1971 Camaro to purchase $1,600 worth of used pizza equipment and began selling pizzas to the tavern’s customers. The following year, his business had become successful enough that he was able to move into an adjoining space. As the old saying goes, the rest is history.

For several decades, Schnatter lived the American dream, watching his creation grow and grow. He even had his company’s name on the University of Louisville football stadium and his name on one of the business college buildings on that campus. He was also a known commodity as he came into our homes via television pretty regularly through his Papa John’s commercials. Yes, Schnatter was living the life until October 2017, when he engulfed himself in the protests by NFL players. Schnatter made comments that he was upset the NFL wasn’t doing anything about players kneeling during the national anthem. We have editorialized that we believe it is inappropriate for players to sit or kneel during the national anthem, although we recognize that it is protected speech.

As a result of him simply speaking his mind on a subject - one that millions of Americans likely agreed with him about - he stepped down as CEO of Papa John‘s.

But that was then and this is now.

Back in May, Schnatter was on a conference call with marketing agency Laundry Service when he tried to downplay comments he had made about the NFL last fall. He said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks … (expletive) … but never faced any public backlash at KFC. Forbes exposed these comments in a column July 11 about the Papa John’s founder. Schnatter said he used the word in describing how Sanders spoke, but that he would never use it as an epithet.

These words should’ve never come out of this man’s mouth. Schnatter is obviously an intelligent man who created his own business that went worldwide and made him a lot of money, but he should’ve known better than to use this kind of language that is very offensive to blacks and all right-thinking Americans, for that matter. There is simply no place in our society for this type of language from Schnatter or anybody else.

He has since stepped down as chairman of the board of the company. The company has asked that Schattner cease all media appearances and not make any further statements regarding the company, its business or employees. Schattner still remains on the board and is the company’s largest shareholder …

Schattner is now fighting back, saying that the pizza chain doesn’t know how to handle a “crisis based on misinformation” and that he made a mistake agreeing to step down as chairman. Schattner is claiming the board requested he step down as chairman without “any investigation” and that he should not have complied.

It is obviously Schattner’s right to fight back, but it seems abundantly obvious that he made these comments by his own admission. Again, he should have known better, and through his actions we believe he has lost the right to be the face of the company he founded.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/


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