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Kentucky Restores Dental, Vision Insurance For Some Medicaid Recipients

Nizil Shah/Wikimedia Commons

Medicaid enrollees who lost dental, vision and non-emergency medical transportation on July 1 will have those benefits restored, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. That state agency manages Medicaid, the health insurance program for people with low-incomes and disabilities.

The benefits roll-back applied to adults who became eligible for Medicaid when it was expanded, including adults without dependents who the state considers “able-bodied” and some parents.

The state drew back these benefits after a court decision in late June striking down Governor Bevin’s changes to the program that were approved by the federal government earlier this year.

The state said that the dental and vision benefits were no longer available because they were only going to be available to the Medicaid expansion group through a "My Rewards" account, where enrollees could earn virtual dollars for piecemeal services. The state said there was no legal authority to pay for these services without the My Rewards accounts.

“In order to mitigate the consequences of the judge’s ruling, and avoid a prolonged coverage gap prior to the re-approval of Kentucky HEALTH, we have begun the process to reinstate vision and dental coverage,” according to a Cabinet press release.

“The Cabinet is close to completing a manual system work-around that will allow payment of claims incurred by any eligible Medicaid beneficiary for dental, vision, and non-emergency transportation services incurred during the month of July,” the state wrote.

Children, pregnant women and former foster care youth up to age 26 were not included in the dental and vision benefit pullback, but advocacy group Kentucky Youth Advocates said in a release they’d been concerned nevertheless.

“We had concerns about unintentional consequences to children’s coverage. There is an undeniable linkage between parental health coverage and that of their children,” wrote Executive Director Terry Brooks. “Minimizing barriers to coverage and promoting access to services for parents is an undeniably vital component to ensuring children do not lose their coverage, even if children’s eligibility and benefits do not directly change.”

Also on Thursday, the federal government opened a new comment period for the Kentucky Medicaid changes following the court ruling.

Modern Healthcare reported that the state Cabinet doesn’t have details from the federal government about the process for possible re-approval after the comment period is closed.

Advocacy group Kentucky Voices for Health wrote in a statement that the group will collect comments, “with the hope that state and federal administrators will listen closely to the needs and concerns of Kentuckians and work collaboratively with stakeholders to design a waiver that will truly move Kentucky’s health, economy and quality of life forward.”

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.

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