Kentucky posts fourth-biggest drop in uninsured rate since Obama - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky posts fourth-biggest drop in uninsured rate since Obamacare coverage expansion

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The emergency room at University Hospital in downtown Louisville, shown in 2016 The emergency room at University Hospital in downtown Louisville, shown in 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The percentage of Kentuckians without health insurance dropped for the fourth-straight year in 2016, according to new U.S. Census data – likely the result of expanded coverage through the state’s Medicaid program.

Kentucky’s uninsured rate dropped to 5.1 percent last year, from 6.1 percent in 2015, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey released Tuesday.

In 2013 – the year before the state opened Medicaid to more low-income people under the Affordable Care Act – Kentucky’s uninsured rate was 14.3 percent, according to the Census data.

Kentucky’s 9.2 percentage-point drop in the uninsured rate since 2013 was the fourth-biggest decline among 50 states and the District of Columbia, behind only California (9.8 percentage points), New Mexico (9.5 percentage points) and Nevada (9.3 percentage points).

The uninsured rate for the U.S. as a whole dropped from 14.5 percent to 8.6 percent over the same four-year period, according to the data.

Indiana, which expanded Medicaid a year later than Kentucky in 2015, saw its uninsured rate drop from 14 percent to 8.1 percent during the 2013-2016 period.

The survey counts people as insured if they had coverage at any point in the year, either privately through an employer or union, or through a government program such as Medicare, Medicaid or TRICARE, the program for the military.

Jason Bailey of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a progressive group that supports the state’s Medicaid expansion, said the new information “confirms yet again Kentucky’s historic success in getting people covered thanks to Medicaid expansion and the rest of the Affordable Care Act.”

Nearly 430,000 low-income Kentuckians gained coverage through the state’s opening of Medicaid to cover those with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, has said the state can’t afford to continue insuring nearly a third of its population through Medicaid without changes. Benefits for the new Medicaid members are projected to cost the state $363 million by 2021, up from $74 million this year, according to CHFS.

Bevin’s administration is seeking federal approval for a waiver that would keep the expanded eligibility intact but introduce cost-sharing measures like monthly premiums and deductibles as well as require able-bodied, working-age adults without dependents to work, look for work or volunteer to maintain Medicaid coverage.

A goal of the waiver is to move people off Medicaid and onto private coverage, Bevin’s health cabinet secretary, Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, has said.

“These individuals (who got coverage through the expansion) are still eligible. The only thought would be that … if you are able-bodied, with no dependents, that you will make that personal choice to now go into the job market,” Glisson told WDRB in July.

Bevin’s administration projects the changes will save the state more than $2.2 billion over five years.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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