GOP lawmaker says medicaid expansion will hinder quality of mental health care in the state

06/03/2013 06:37 PM

A state Republican lawmaker believes that expanding Medicaid rolls to 300,000 more Kentuckians will take away from funds that could be going to help the Commonwealth’s mental health agencies.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, sees the expansion of Medicaid as something that will further hinder the way Kentucky provides mental health care because of the blanketed coverage. Instead, he believes the state could improve the quality of care with more of a block grant type system.

“You would then have money to say ‘in Kentucky, what are our health issues?’ And we could drive centers of excellence in cardiac care, in drug addiction and mental health much deeper into our commonwealth, much more at a grassroots level and provide that care,” Benvenuti said (at 2:45).

President Obama called for elevating the importance of mental health problems at a White House Mental Health Conference Monday. Obama said treating mental health issues should be as routine as going to the doctor for a broken bone.

Obama also touted elements of the Affordable Care Act that require health insurance plans to some mental health assessments. But Benvenuti said the Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act is the wrong way to go about addressing Kentucky’s issues with mental health.

“You go to Frankfort and the first thing you learn is there are a lot of areas that request funding and probably deserve funding, but you cant be all things to all people,” Benvenuti said (at 3:45). “And the more we say we are going to simply blanket our commonwealth with Medicaid recipients then the less we will have to target what will ultimately be the solutions.”

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