LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Republican candidate Daniel Cameron said Wednesday that he would move quickly as Kentucky's governor to revive a push to require some able-bodied adults to work in exchange for health care coverage through Medicaid.
If he succeeds in unseating Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear later this year, Cameron said his administration would seek federal permission to impose the Medicaid work requirement. The proposed rule would exclude able-bodied adults who are “truly vulnerable,” including those with children or who are pregnant, his campaign said in a follow-up statement. Cameron declared that connecting Medicaid coverage to work for some Kentuckians would raise workforce participation in the post-pandemic era.
"That will be one way in which we tackle the workforce issue,” Cameron said while attending a forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau, which Beshear did not attend.
The issue of imposing a Medicaid work requirement is yet another stark differences between Cameron and Beshear, who is seeking reelection to a second term in November. Beshear rescinded an attempt by the state's previous GOP governor, Matt Bevin, to create a Medicaid work requirement that Beshear says would have stripped coverage from about 100,000 Kentuckians.
Cameron, the state's attorney general, also used his time before the farm bureau officials to lay out his views on agriculture, taxes and spending. The Republican nominee is trying to cultivate strong support in GOP-leaning rural regions to offset Beshear's expected strength in the metropolitan areas of Louisville and Lexington. Kentucky’s showdown for governor is one of the nation's most closely watched campaigns this year.
Cameron said he supports policies promoting “generational farming,” enabling Kentuckians to keep farming operations within their families. He said he would “lean on” the GOP-led legislature and his running mate, state Sen. Robby Mills, on whether to pursue new tax exemptions to support agriculture.
Asked about his budget priorities, Cameron pointed to law enforcement. He recently unveiled a public safety plan that included awarding recruitment and retention bonuses to bolster police forces.
"We’re going to prioritize making sure that there is money within our budget to help our law enforcement community,” Cameron said Wednesday.
Beshear has touted his crime-fighting record by noting he pushed for large pay raises for state troopers, as well as increased training for police officers. The governor says he will seek additional funding for police training and body armor to protect law officers if he wins another term.
Cameron, answering a question about taxation, said he wants property taxes to be “as low as possible.”
“But I also recognize that our schools and a lot of local entities rely on some of those taxes," Cameron added. “And so we’ll have to be smart and deliberative about how we approach this.”
Cameron's pledge to seek a Medicaid work rule for some able-bodied adults would put an immediate Republican imprint on his administration if he wins in November. Cameron raised the issue during the GOP primary and vowed again Wednesday to make it “one of the first things I will do as governor."
“If we want the plan and the coverage to exist and remain solvent for those that are means-tested and medically necessary, we need to make the program, as best as possible, transitory – something that folks will come off of if they are able-bodied individuals,” he said at the forum.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state health care program for poor and disabled people. Advocates have said work requirements would become one more hoop for low-income people to jump through, and many could be denied coverage because of technicalities and challenging new paperwork.
In Kentucky, hundreds of thousands were added to the Medicaid rolls when then-Gov. Steve Beshear, the current governor's father, expanded the program to cover able-bodied adults. For many Kentuckians, it was their first time to have health coverage in a state plagued by high disease rates.
Bevin's plan would have required that affected recipients either work, study, volunteer or perform other “community engagement” activities to qualify for Medicaid. A federal judge blocked the requirements before they took effect, but Bevin’s administration had appealed until Andy Beshear rescinded those efforts. At the time, Beshear referred to his action as the “moral, faith-driven thing to do.” Beshear, who calls health care a “basic human right,” narrowly defeated Bevin in the 2019 governor's race.
Cameron's campaign said Wednesday that his proposal would require affected adults to either work, be enrolled at least part-time in college or be involved in job training or community service to stay on Medicaid.
“We will protect the truly vulnerable but we will not allow able-bodied people to take advantage of taxpayer generosity,” Cameron said in the follow-up statement from his campaign.