KY Policy Blog

10 Reasons to Celebrate Medicaid’s 50th Birthday

By Kenny Colston
July 30, 2015

50 years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed the law creating Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and elderly. In lieu of big cakes with candles, here are 10 reasons why Medicaid should last for at least another 50 years, based in part on a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

1. It provides health coverage to 947,100 people in our state.

That’s nearly 1 in 4 Kentuckians who can get the care they need for themselves or their children without being pushed into or further into poverty. Medicaid helps get Kentucky closer to universal coverage, providing health care to those that private insurers will not cover.

2. Roughly half of recipients are children.

To be precise, 461,800 of those covered by Medicaid are kids. That’s about 3 in 7 Kentucky children who can get needed vaccinations and screenings vital to their health. Forty-four percent of births in Kentucky are covered by Medicaid. Additionally, children who receive coverage under Medicaid are more likely to do better in school, miss less class, graduate college and earn more as adults than children in similar situations who aren’t covered by Medicaid.

3. Medicaid makes people healthier.

People covered by Medicaid are more likely to have better health outcomes in part because they can better access preventive care like cancer screenings and vaccinations. When sick, they can go to a clinic or doctor’s office to be treated, instead of letting problems persist to the point of emergency care. One study showed a 6.1 percent reduction in mortality five years after the expansion of Medicaid in three states.

4. It covers the elderly and disabled.

98,300 seniors and 242,400 disabled Kentuckians receive health coverage through Medicaid, which, depending on their needs, allows them to live independently by covering in-home care or in residential facilities.

5. Medicaid provides financial security.

People on Medicaid are less likely than people without insurance to go into medical debt or to neglect other bills due to high medical costs.

6. Medicaid is efficient.

Medicaid costs a couple hundred dollars less than private insurance for children and nearly $1,500 less for adults. Administrative costs for the program are six percent, less than half of private insurance. And spending on Medicaid per enrollee has grown more slowly than spending by private insurers.

7. The Medicaid expansion is helping fill the insurance gap for low-income adults.

When Kentucky decided to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, more than 400,000 people were able to access health care by enrolling in Medicaid. That dropped the state’s uninsured rate from 20.4 percent to 9.8 percent in just one year, the second-biggest decline of any state.

8. It helps create jobs and revenue.

More coverage through Medicaid means the need for more doctors, nurses and other health professionals. The expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky is expected to create 40,000 jobs, according to an independent study commissioned by the state. Those jobs are expected to bring in an additional $1.1 billion in income, sales and other tax revenues between now and 2021.

9. It covers more than just routine doctor visits.

According to the same study, more than 80,000 new Medicaid participants received preventive dental services in 2014, thanks to expansion. Additionally, 90,000 had cholesterol screenings and 46,000 were screened for diabetes. Coverage under Medicaid isn’t just for the common cold; it helps prevent serious conditions before they worsen.

10. It helps insure people in every county in Kentucky.

Medicaid doesn’t just help people in the urban and Appalachian areas of Kentucky. The expansion of the program has lowered the uninsured rate in all 120 counties. In some cases, the uninsured rate was cut in half, if not more significantly, allowing for better health outcomes throughout the Commonwealth.

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