Bevin extends public comment period on Medicaid proposal

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is giving people more time to comment on his proposal to overhaul the state's Medicaid program that insures more than 25 percent of the state's population.

Officials made the decision last week. But they did not send out a news release, instead posting a link near the bottom of the website devoted to the proposal.

The notice online says the new deadline is 5 p.m. Friday. But Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Jean West said the deadline is actually Sunday. She did not give a time, saying it would be the "end of the day."

West said public notices are scheduled to be published in newspapers on Thursday, three days before the new deadline, upsetting some health care advocates who say they were not notified of the change.

"It's unfortunate the administration re-opened public comment without alerting the public or the press before doing so," Kenny Colston, communications director for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, who has followed the proposal closely.

The original comment period closed on July 22.

Bevin's proposal must first be approved by the federal government. He had originally planned to submit it on Aug. 1. But officials delayed that, saying they were still sorting through public comments. West said about the cabinet received 30 percent of the written comments on the last day.

Former Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear expanded the state's Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act in 2013. More than 400,000 people enrolled in Medicaid as a result, greatly exceeding official estimates.

Bevin, a Republican who took office in December, says the program is too large. His proposal would require able-bodied adults to pay premiums of up to $15 per month to receive coverage. It would also require beneficiaries to have "community engagement," such as volunteering for a charitable organization or getting a job, in order to qualify for coverage.

Bevin says his changes would save taxpayers $2.2 billion over the next five years.

In addition to written comments, cabinet officials held three public hearings throughout the state. The majority of people who commented at those hearings were opposed the proposal, saying it would make it more difficult for people to get insurance.

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