Beshear Says Medicaid Will Expand
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky's Medicaid program will expand to cover hundreds of thousands of additional people, Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday.
The program already provides medical coverage to some 800,000 low-income residents. The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand coverage to some 308,000 additional Kentuckians with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or nearly $15,860 for individuals.
"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" Beshear said. "My only concern was the cost. We have now done the exhaustive research and our conclusion matched what most others 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."
The expected move drew praise and criticism even before Beshear made the announcement during an afternoon news conference.
"Despite decades of hard work, too many Kentuckians are one illness or one accident away from financial ruin because they lack access to affordable, adequate health care coverage," said Cathy Allgood Murphy, a lobbyist for AARP Kentucky. "By accepting federal funds for health care expansion, Kentucky can make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people."
Tea party activist David Adams predicted the move will result in additional government waste.
"Medicaid provides little more than large opportunities in health care fraud and inefficiency for politicians who can't do math," Adams said in a statement.
Nationally, about 15 million people - mostly adults with no children living at home - could eventually be covered if all states expand. But the Supreme Court last year gave states the right to reject the expansion without jeopardizing the rest of their federal Medicaid funds.
Expanded Medicaid will be available starting Jan. 1, and uninsured people can start signing up this fall. So far, 21 states plus Washington, D.C., have accepted the expansion, while 14 states have turned it down. Another 15 states are still weighing options.
Nearly all the states refusing are led by Republicans. Several of the states accepting have Republican governors, but most are led by Democrats. Washington will pick up the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years, and 90 percent over the longer haul. It's estimated that less than $100 billion in state spending could trigger nearly $1 trillion in federal dollars over a decade.