FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - 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.
The expansion, together with the creation of the Health Benefit Exchange, will ensure that every Kentuckian will have access to affordable health insurance.
Kentucky's Medicaid program already provides medical coverage to some 800,000 people. The federal Affordable Care Act allows states to expand coverage to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
“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.”
The federal government would fully fund the expansion for three years with the state's share gradually increasing to 10 percent by 2020.
Gov. Beshear pointed 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.”