Calling it "the single-most important decision in our lifetime for improving the health of Kentuckians," Gov. Steve Beshear today announced the inclusion of 308,000 more Kentuckians in the federal Medicaid health insurance program. He says the expansion, together with the creation of the Health Benefit Exchange, will ensure that every Kentuckian will have access to affordable health insurance.
The Governor says the expansion, made in accordance with the federal Affordable Care Act, will help hundreds of thousands of Kentucky families, dramatically improve the state's health, create nearly 17,000 new jobs and have a $15.6 billion positive economic impact on the state between its beginning in Fiscal Year 2014 and full implementation in Fiscal Year 2021, he said.
"I have repeatedly said that I believe it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth and its citizens to provide better access to health care for our people. My only concern was the cost," said Gov. Beshear. "We have now done the exhaustive research – and our conclusion matched what most other states have found: by expanding Medicaid, Kentucky will come out ahead in terms of both health outcomes and finances. In fact, if we don't expand Medicaid, we will lose money."
Several months of internal analysis – as well as outside studies conducted by the University of Louisville and the Price Waterhouse Coopers accounting and actuarial firm – determined that the expansion was a good deal for those families and for taxpayers. The reviews gathered information about possible impacts to citizen health, the state budget, workforce and economic development.
Medicaid currently provides health care for low-income or disabled citizens. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA last year, states have the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to individuals who earn up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), with the guarantee that the federal government will cover the entire cost for the first three years.
The expansion will be effective January 1, 2014. By expanding, every Kentucky citizen will have access to affordable health care, either through Medicaid or through the Health Benefits Exchange – no one will fall into a coverage gap.
The Governor cited several key reasons for expanding the program, including:
Access to Health Care Improves Kentuckians' Health
About 640,000 Kentuckians are uninsured.
By expanding Medicaid eligibility, an estimated 308,000 Kentuckians will qualify for health care coverage –– a population greater than the size of Lexington and Fayette County.
Gov. Beshear points to Kentucky's dismal rankings in multiple health outcomes as one of the reasons to give lower-income Kentucky families access to reliable, quality health care. In 2012, Kentucky's overall health ranking was 44th. Kentucky is at the bottom of many national health rankings, including 50th in smoking, 40th in obesity, 41st in diabetes, 50th in cancer deaths, 49th in heart disease, 43rd in high cholesterol, 44th in annual dental visits and 48th in heart attacks.
"I, for one, am tired of being at the bottom," Gov. Beshear said. "Giving every Kentuckian access to affordable health care coverage will help us tackle these abysmal health outcomes. Our poor health has contributed to us being a poor state. Improved health will help improve our education levels and job opportunities."
Multiple state and national reports show that when someone has or gains health coverage, there are measurable improvements in health status, including a decrease in delayed care and reduction of mortality rate. When larger groups gain health coverage, the workforce improves.
Where to find more information:
A new state website houses information about the expansion, including the CHFS white paper and letters from supporters. Visitors can also explore county-by-county data such as how many citizens will be newly eligible for Medicaid, or how much county jails spent on medical care last year. Visitgovernor.ky.gov/healthierky to learn more.
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