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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Kentucky Judge Gives Governor Steve Beshear OK To Continue Implementation Of Obamacare In State.


Kentucky Medicaid expansion, healthcare exchanges proceed with judge's approval

What’s next

• Lead plaintiff David Adams said he will ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to hear his appeal of both rulings.
• On Oct. 1, Kentuckians may enroll in insurance plans for 2014 offered through the state’s healthcare exchange, which is called kynect.

FRANKFORT, KY. — The Beshear administration’s plans to expand Medicaid and begin enrollment in Kentucky’s new healthcare exchange survived their first court challenge Tuesday.
In separate rulings, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd upheld both decisions by Gov. Steve Beshear intended to expand access to healthcare to 640,000 uninsured Kentuckians under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The rulings swept aside the legal challenge by Nicholasville Tea Party activist David Adams and others who insisted that Beshear’s actions must be ratified by the legislature.
“The Kentucky Supreme Court has held that this legislative power may be delegated to the executive branch of government in these circumstances, so long as there are standards governing the exercise of discretion, and the legislature retains the authority to withdraw the delegation,” Shepherd wrote in the case upholding the expansion of Medicaid. “Those conditions are clearly met here.”

Beshear said in a statement that his administration’s work to expand Medicaid and establish the exchange have not been slowed by the litigation.
“All our systems to assist Kentuckians in finding quality, affordable health insurance will be ready to go on Oct. 1,” Beshear said in a statement.

But Adams said he will appeal both orders and ask that the case go directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
“Gov. Beshear had to lie in court and break state law in order to pretend to have authority specifically denied him by statute, case law and the constitution. He needed a judge to ignore these facts,” Adams said in a statement. “Now he needs four of seven who are elected in districts whose people understand and oppose Obamacare. I don’t think he can do it.”

Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican who chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she foresees major problems as the Beshear administration proceeds.
“My overriding concern from the beginning is that Medicaid is not being run well now; they’ve never gotten their hands around managed care,” Denton said. “Do we really want to expand a broken system? And do we want the government to take on another new project like the healthcare exchanges?”

But Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown and chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee said, “I agree with the court because the governor did these things with powers we delegated to him. I’m pleased, because to lose the cases would have really been a disruption.”
Late last year, Beshear issued an executive order starting the healthcare exchange — an online marketplace where Kentuckians and small businesses can shop for insurance policies by comparing benefits, costs and provider networks.

The 2013 General Assembly failed to ratify that move. Its failure to act meant that Beshear’s order became invalid 90 days after the session. However, Beshear issued a new order this summer, making substantial changes in the structure of the exchange, Shepherd said in his ruling.

The judge said Beshear was well within his authority in issuing the order, “which does nothing more than implement a very specific section of a federal law that has been upheld against constitutional challenge by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Beshear announced last May that Kentucky would expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act — a move expected to bring an additional 308,000 newly eligible Kentuckians into the health-insurance program for the poor and disabled.

At the time he announced expansion, Beshear said a study by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services predicted that the move will create nearly 17,000 jobs and have a $15.6 billion impact on the state between 2014 and 2021.

In the case challenging the Medicaid expansion, Adams challenged the constitutionality of a state law in which the General Assembly established a policy to “take advantage of all federal funds that may be available for medical assistance.”

But Shepherd said this directive by the legislature was not an arbitrary delegation of its powers to the governor.
“The goal of the statute, self-evidently, is to provide for expanded healthcare benefits for indigent citizens, which is clearly a valid state objective,” Shepherd wrote. “It is up to the legislature to determine the means by which this goal is to be reached.”

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