KY Policy Blog

Expanding Medicaid is a Good Move for Kentucky

By Ashley Spalding
March 29, 2013

Expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a good move for Kentucky. More than half of the state’s uninsured stand to benefit. It would have a positive impact on the state’s economy while costing the state very little. And the majority of Kentuckians are in favor of the Medicaid expansion.

It’s Good for Workers

Despite being employed, a large share of low-wage workers cannot afford health insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid. They struggle just to make ends meet and cover their basic expenses. Being uninsured means that many go without needed care and prescription drugs—and those who delay care for as long as possible have limited options when they finally do seek care.

If Kentucky expands Medicaid eligibility in 2014, more than 146,000 uninsured workers across Kentucky’s economy could qualify for health insurance. Among them are thousands of store clerks, cooks, waiters and waitresses, construction workers, child care workers, hair stylists, and nursing home caregivers. Many of these workers’ jobs involve caring for the health and well-being of others, and many do work that is physically demanding or that exposes them to significant health risks.

It’s Good for Veterans

Approximately 9,500 uninsured veterans could receive health coverage if Kentucky expands Medicaid, and their spouses could qualify for coverage too. Most people assume that all veterans can receive health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which operates the nation’s largest health system. But only about 37 percent of the country’s more than 22 million veterans receive health coverage through the VA. There are nearly 21,000 uninsured veterans in Kentucky.

It’s Good for Kids

Expanding Medicaid is good for kids because it is good for their parents. Parents with health coverage are more likely to be healthy and to take steps to keep their children healthy—including making preventive care appointments. Insured parents are also more likely to enroll their children in health coverage. While most of Kentucky’s low-income children receive health coverage through Medicaid or the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP), the state’s free or low-cost health insurance for children, there are still approximately 61,000 uninsured children in Kentucky—many of whom may be eligible for Medicaid or KCHIP.

It’s Good for the Economy

Expanding Medicaid would likely result in the state’s workforce becoming healthier and more productive. It would also result in more federal dollars for the state. These funds would go to health care providers, support a significant number of new jobs and increase economic activity in the state. Families USA estimates that there would be approximately 14,700 new jobs across all sectors of the state’s economy.

It’s a Good Deal

If Kentucky expands Medicaid, the state would pay nothing for the first three years and no more than 10 percent after that. And once the state’s portion kicked in, additional spending wouldn’t end up being much more than what Kentucky would have spent on Medicaid in the absence of the ACA. The state would also spend less money providing health care for the uninsured.

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