Bevin: Benefind being fixed, House Democrats form watchdog force

Bevin: Benefind being fixed, House Democrats form watchdog force
Charmae Cuff (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Charmae Cuff (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Gov. Matt Bevin (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Gov. Matt Bevin (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Phlebotomy tech Charmae Cuff wouldn't get to meet Hillary Clinton when the Democratic front-runner stopped by the Portland Family Health Center as part of a second Kentucky swing before the primary May 17.

But she wants the candidate to hear loud and clear, her frustrations trying to assure that her daughter Makerhan, 15, has health insurance.

"I haven't got a card, just got an approval letter," she said on Tuesday.  

Her own coverage is through her employer. She applied to cover Makerhan through Passport, the Medicaid expansion made possible through the Affordable Care Act and Kynect, former Gov. Steve Beshear's online buyers' exchange that President Obama has held as an example of how the ACA is supposed to work.

"They said she was insured," Cuff said. "But two weeks later I got a letter saying I needed to fill out more papers and return 'em. But I don't know where I return 'em to."

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Her letters came from Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Gov. Matt Bevin has moved to scrap Kynect, calling it unaffordable and unnecessary.

The Cabinet has been using Benefind -- another online portal -- as a transition pathway to the federal buyer's exchange.

But Benefind's roll-out came with so many glitches and mistakes that it drove Cabinet Secretary Vicky Yates Brown Glisson to choke back tears during a news conference March 31.

"For those who are getting errant notices or are concerned in anyway by some misinformation that has been reported to them, their benefits will continue," Gov. Matt Bevin promised.

Last Friday, the Cabinet closed a two-week War Room; a combination of online and telephone staffers assigned to clear the backlog of complaints from those who'd received notices of termination or interruption of SNAP (food stamps) benefits or Medicaid coverage. 

More than 28,000 claims were processed, communications director Doug Hogan said.

"We could re-open that processing center, should the need present itself," he said.

"Is it where we would want it to be," Bevin asked rhetorically Tuesday. "It'll probably never be as seamless and perfect a--nor would anything that gets rolled out be as seamless and perfect as we would ever want it to be."

Cuff knows little about Benefind.

"It just comes in letters," she said. "And it's jargon that we don't understand."

House Democrats said Speaker Greg Stumbo's new Task Force On Vulnerable Kentuckians isn't playing politics, but monitoring how any changes in the Medicaid expansion will affect the 400,000 previously-uninsured Kentuckians who've obtained coverage through it.

A YouTube video posted April 8 features Louisville-area Representatives Jim Wayne and Mary Lou Marzian visiting a young mother trying to restore Passport coverage at the Louisville Services Center.

The woman, whom the video doesn't identify, reportedly needed the coverage so her child could undergo heart surgery.

"So if you were back on Passport, kynect - back on that insurance in January, you wouldn't have had any problems," Wayne asked.

The young woman nodded, indicated she hadn't known her coverage had been canceled until her daughter's last visit to her pediatrician.

Democrats maintain Bevin has used Benefind as a way to kill Medicaid's expansion slowly.

"Whether or not there is expanded Medicaid will be determined by the willingness of the federal government to allow it to happen," Bevin said Tuesday. "What we are asking for is a factor. What the cost is, is a factor."

Ultimately, the next President will hold great sway as to whether federal tax dollars pay the full costs, Bevin said. He maintains that Kentucky cannot bear a larger share of the bill.

Cuff is certain that her employer would agree to treat her daughter for minor injuries or illness, regardless of whether she has Passport Medicaid coverage.

"I could pay on a sliding scale," she said. "But if she had to go to the hospital, we would be in a bad situation, probably."

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