FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - The doctor will see you now, and Uncle Sam will foot the bill. Governor Beshear announced plans Thursday to expand Medicaid to include more than 300,000 Kentuckians.
Some area physicians are confident the change will mean better access to care, but others say it is too soon to tell.
The expansion will grant Medicaid coverage to about 206,000 Kentuckians who are above the poverty line but below the eligibility cutoff for federal subsidies for private insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Some in the healthcare industry say it is unclear what the change will mean for doctors and patients.
"With this information being relatively new it's difficult at this point in time to know the exact impact the expansion will have on our hospital," said Laura Damron, a spokeswoman for Pikeville Medical Center.
Kentucky consistently ranks near the bottom in health outcome metrics like obesity, cancer and smoking.
Doctors we talked to say expanding Medicaid will improve access to preventive care and eventually begin to improve the state's health picture.
"Preventive care is extremely important because by its very nature it heads off problems down the road," said Dr. Mitchell Wicker, a physician at the Hazard Clinic.
Critics of the move say they worry how the state will pay for the expansion once the federal government stops paying the full amount, but Dr. Wicker says anything that gives people more access to healthcare is a good thing in his book.
"From my standpoint I'm glad to see any of our citizens get more healthcare, any kind of help they can get with that," he said.
Governor Beshear says the additional health care spending that will occur from the Medicaid expansion will lead to a cumulative economic impact of more than $15 billion by 2021 and create nearly 17,000 jobs, but it may be too soon to diagnose the real economic impact.
The Medicaid expansion will go into effect January 1st. The federal government will pay for 100 percent of the expansion for the first three years. After that, the federal contribution will gradually decrease to 90 percent by 2020.