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Medicaid at 50: Kentucky’s Experience Highlights Benefits of Medicaid Expansion

July 23, 2015 at 7:30 PM

Kentucky’s experience highlights the benefits that await states if they expand Medicaid under health reform.

Across the country, health reform has had the greatest impact in the 28 states (and the District of Columbia) where Medicaid expansion has taken effect.  These states have experienced the largest gains in insurance coverage, and expansion has produced net budget savings that are expected to grow over time.

After just one year, a state report shows, Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion has produced:

  • Large gains in health coverage.  By the end of 2014, 375,000 Kentuckians who were newly eligible for Medicaid had enrolled.  That’s a major reason why Kentucky’s uninsurance rate for adults has fallen by half since health reform’s major coverage provisions took effect in 2014. 
  • More use of preventive services.  Tens of thousands of low-income Kentuckians received cholesterol, diabetes, and cancer screenings, and preventive dental services.  This high use of such preventive services shows there’s a pent-up demand for care by people who previously lacked access to affordable coverage, the report notes.
  • Substantial state budget savings.  By the end of fiscal year 2015 on June 30, Medicaid expansion had saved Kentucky $108 million.  As more Kentuckians have gained coverage, demand for state-funded services for the uninsured, such as behavioral health services and inpatient hospital care for prisoners, has fallen.
  • Less uncompensated care.  Kentucky’s health providers reported a 55 percent drop in the amount of uncompensated care they provided in 2014.

The federal government now pays the entire cost of health care for newly eligible beneficiaries.  Although the state will begin paying for a small portion of their coverage in 2017, Kentucky’s projections through 2021 show that expansion will continue saving the state money.

Medicaid expansion has had similar positive impacts in other states.  That’s why, in recent months, Montana, Alaska, and Utah have moved closer to expanding Medicaid, too. 

As Medicaid turns 50, learn more about how it improves access to health care, its long-term benefits, and why states should expand Medicaid: www.cbpp.org/medicaid-at-50.