Beshear says Medicaid expansion will make Kentuckians healthier and help the economy

05/09/2013 04:53 PM

Calling it the single “most important decision in our lifetime” to improve Kentuckians’ health, Gov. Steve Beshear officially announced Thursday that he agreed to expand Medicaid 308,000 more Kentuckians.

The Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — allows states to expand Medicaid to cover those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate, which is about $31,000 for a family of four.

With Beshear’s announcement, Kentucky will be the 22nd state to agree to the expansion, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

The move to cover more low-income Kentuckians could nearly cut in half the number of uninsured Kentuckians, currently around 640,000. The other half who don’t qualify for additional help through Medicaid will soon be able to be matched up with private healthcare coverage through the health-benefit exchange, Beshear said. That’s also an outgrowth of the Affordable Care Act.

Beshear said the expansion is expected to create 17,000 new jobs and have a $15.6 billion economic impact to the state.

Watch the video below to see how much the state will pay to expand the system which provides health care coverage to the uninsured.

Currently, Kentucky ranks among the lowest in the nation with a 44th ranking in overall healthcare, according to the United Health Foundation . The commonwealth is 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.

The administration hired outside studies conducted by the University of Louisville and Price Waterhouse Coopers accounting firm to provide statistics and provide a cost estimate to the program expansion.

Kelsey Cooper, the communications director for the Republican Party of Kentucky, attended the announcement at the State Reception Room in the Capitol and said afterwards Beshear still had some answering to do.

“It’s great that he wants to expand Medicaid and make healthcare more affordable for everyone, but he still has to answer to the fact that Obamacare is bad for small businesses, is bad for Kentuckians, and it’s bad for employers,” Cooper said. “What is he going to say to all of the Kentuckians that can’t afford to have that many employees anymore, because the Obamacare regulations? I think the state Democrats are going to have to answer now to the fact they support Obamacare.”

Beshear did address whom he called the “naysayers” during his 15-minute prepared remarks, saying “get over it” when it comes to the criticism of the Affordable Care Act.

“They express vague and broad anxieties about costs – fears the facts refute, and they fall back on partisan national politics. If Kentucky expands Medicaid they ask won’t Kentucky be supporting be supporting Obamacare, well to them I say, get over it,” Beshear said.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm joined cn|2 in December 2011 as a reporter for Pure Politics. He is now the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics. Throughout his career, Nick has covered several big political stories up close, including interviewing President Barack Obama on the campaign trail back in 2008. Nick says he loves being at the forefront of Kentucky politics and working with the brightest journalists in the commonwealth. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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