Lawmaker: Beshear will expand Medicaid and Ky. can opt out if it's too expensive

02/11/2013 04:07 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear will agree to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income Kentuckians as called for by the Affordable Care Act, said the chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee. (see 3:45 in the interview video below).

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, told Pure Politics that the governor told him in a meeting last week that he would sign-off to allow Medicaid to cover several hundred thousand more Kentuckians who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.

The federal government will cover the cost of covering the extra people for the first three years starting Jan. 1, 2014. Kentucky would have to kick in 5 percent of the costs starting in 2017 and 10 percent by 2020. But Burch said Beshear has decided to move forward with it because he believes the state would be able to opt out if state officials discover that Kentucky can’t afford it after 2017.

The governor’s office said the official decision hadn’t been made yet but didn’t dispute Burch’s statement.

“The federal government has not set a deadline for states to decide on expansion. If it’s affordable, the Governor wants to expand the program to bring adequate health care to more Kentuckians,” said Kerri Richardson, communications director for Beshear.

Beshear didn’t mention it in his State of the Commonwealth Address last week.

Senate Republicans, however, have opposed the expansion of Medicaid because the state can’t afford it. The federal government covers roughly 70 percent of Kentucky’s $6 billion Medicaid program. It covers more than 800,000 Kentuckians and with the expansion, that number could grow to more than 1 million — or roughly a quarter of all Kentuckians.

Burch also talked about his expectations for the managed care program in which the state pays private insurance companies to handle Medicaid billing from providers.

(For more from Rep. Burch on other health care matters, watch Pure Politics tonight on Insight’s cn|2.)

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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