Kentucky Distilled: Medicaid, Lobbyists And More

Jun 1, 2018

This week in Kentucky politics, Gov. Matt Bevin said he’s partnering with a former Democratic congressman to help people navigate the state’s new Medicaid rules. We found out that lobbyists set a new spending record at the state legislature as lawmakers made changes to the tax code. Plus, a state-funded aluminum mill broke ground in northeastern Kentucky and  Bevin asked for a judge to recuse himself from the lawsuit over the new pension bill. 

After getting approval from the federal government earlier this year, the Bevin administration is rolling out changes to the state’s Medicaid system. For the first time, able-bodied Medicaid enrollees will have to pay small monthly premiums and prove that they’re working, volunteering or trying to find work. 
Those work requirements have some worried that people will get kicked off of Medicaid. 

But Bevin says the requirements will lead to “better health outcomes” because people will be focused on staying healthy and finding jobs. 
“We’re working together to make sure that people are engaged so that they have a vested interest so that we deliver a better result so we get better health outcomes” 
This week, Bevin announced he’s teaming up with the nonprofit Foundation for a Health Kentucky, which is headed up by former Democratic Congressman Ben Chandler. 
Chandler said the foundation will work to educate people about the work requirements and help those who can’t afford the monthly premiums. 
“I don’t think anybody wants people to lose their health coverage, I just don’t think that anybody’s got that goal. I hope not. I can assure you that we at the foundation don’t.” 
Even though he’s a Democrat, Chandler notably voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and has said that his vote against the law helped him get reelected that year. He was eventually unseated by Republican Andy Barr in the following election. 
The work requirements will first be rolled out next month in northern Kentucky. 
Bevin also attended the groundbreaking of the $1.3 billion Braidy Industries aluminum mill that’s slated to open up in Boyd County. He predicted the mill is just the first of many companies that will relocate to the area. 
“They’re going to come here because Braidy Industries put a stake in the ground. And the roots will grow deep and the flowers that will come up are going to be enjoyed by generations to come” 
Earlier this year, Bevin cut a deal to attract Braidy to Kentucky. The state invested $15 million in Braidy stock and promised a combination of tax incentives that total more than $10 million. 
Braidy’s CEO Craig Bouchard says the company will take employees who get a Braidy-tailored aluminum rolling associate’s degree from nearby Ashland Community and Technical College. 
“Kids or veterans or people that want to be re-tooled can go through there can earn a B-average, be drug-free every step of the way, which we’re going to make happen, and they graduate directly into our mill after three internships with a minimum $65,000 salary and a bonus.” 
The plant is slated to open in 2020. 
This week Bevin continued his fight with the judge presiding over the lawsuit against the pension bill that was signed into law earlier this year. 
As the legislature made major changes to the state’s tax laws and public pension system earlier this year, lobbyists set a record for spending—over $10 and a half million. 
The top spender was Altria, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies. They lobbied against an increase in the state’s cigarette tax, which ended up jumping from 60 cents per pack to a dollar-ten. 
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was the runner-up. They pushed for lawmakers to make changes to the state’s public pension system, among other initiatives. 
Bevin argued that Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd has a conflict of interest in the case because he is enrolled one of the state’s pension plans. 
Shepherd rejected Bevin's request because there are no changes to the judicial pension system involved in the case. That’s it for your distilled rundown of the news out of Frankfort this week.