Update From Kentucky Senator Joe Bowen
Kentucky Senator Joe Bowen sent the following open letter out (Monday July 2nd) this morning. As we have done in the past we are more than happy to pass this on to you. The Senator is in Washington D.C. for a Council of State Government’s meeting on the Affordable Care Act.
The Senator also addresses the tough times the aluminum industry is facing and touches on state costs on Medicare and Medicade. I hope you will take the time to read the Senators comments. You may also wish to contact him with your thoughts and ideas. I have incuded his contact information.
I am writing this from Washington, D.C., where I am attending the Council of State Governments’ Medicaid Policy Academy – the first ever forum of its kind that brings together state legislators with federal government officials and Medicaid experts to develop a deeper understanding of the program’s rules and requirements, learn best practices on cost containment and innovative policies, and develop a meaningful network with other legislators and professionals interested in an area that consumes roughly 15% of our state budget. Considering the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” this has been a very timely opportunity as I have received briefings on the potential impact to states.
First, let me say that the true implications of the ruling that upheld the individual mandate but left the costly expansion of state Medicaid rolls optional are yet to be determined. Even the experts are still analyzing what this could mean to states financially. While it is an admirable goal to make sure that everyone has a healthcare safety net, the costs to our tax- payers, employers, and the state need to be considered. As the old adage says, there is no free lunch. Some employers are already discussing outsourcing labor or even slowing down hiring. The requirement that everyone purchase insurance or pay a penalty means potentially high tax increases on employers, especially small and medium size businesses. As for the state, Kentucky has about 640,000 residents who are not insured that we would be obligated to pay for if Kentucky opts to increase our Medicaid rolls. There are many unanswered questions. I am committed to learning as much as I can and holding the line on taxes while still ensuring that our most vulnerable receive adequate services.
Closer to home, the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare heard from the newly appointed Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Haynes who discussed the trouble bedeviling the implementation of Medicaid managed care, specifically in the case of one of the companies, Coventry Cares and Appalachian Regional Hospital in Hazard. The implementation has been rocky with many medical providers and local pharmacists not receiving timely reimbursement and confusion among patients. Secretary Haynes testified that the implementation has saved $190 million over the last six months. Unfortunately, it will not be until January that the General Assembly will receive an accurate picture of the numbers. Furthermore, we must make certain that cost savings are not accomplished by sacrificing patient care and reasonable provider compensation.
Many of you have read about the challenges facing our aluminum industry, particularly as it relates to low market prices for aluminum and high energy costs for the smelters. I have participated in many meetings focused on this issue and while I am glad that it maintains a high profile in Frankfort, I’m concerned what the final outcome might be. It will truly take a team effort to find a solution. The Governor, my colleagues, and I continue to do all we can.
I hope you and your families are enjoying a safe and pleasant summer. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181
Note: Senator Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro) serves on the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, the Agriculture Committee, the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, the Health and Welfare Committee, Veterans, Military Affairs, & Public Protection Committee, and chairs the Administrative Regulations Committee. He represents the 8th District including Daviess and McLean counties