There are approximately 694,000 people living in Kentucky without health insurance. According to a study by the United Health Foundation, Kentucky’s health index ranked our commonwealth 44th out of 50 states in 2012, and we were at or near the bottom in key health indicators such as smoking (50), diabetes (41), and obesity (40).
Kentucky has an opportunity, however, to expand Medicaid eligibility to nearly 300,000 additional low-income adults currently uninsured, and potentially improve our state’s health through the much debated federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. And Gov. Steve Beshear, who is currently considering that expansion, should certainly do so.
Critics of Medicaid expansion, such as Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, who earlier this year filed a bill that would have blocked expansion without legislative oversight, claim expansion in Kentucky is cost prohibitive. The Bluegrass Institute says a projected $1 billion price tag over the next decade is a bill the taxpayers will have to foot needlessly.
But according to figures from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, Kentucky’s Medicaid program will enroll more people over the next few years as other aspects of Obamacare go into effect, and the cost will increase in Kentucky whether Beshear opts to expand or not. In all, the report notes, the state’s Medicaid cost under Obamacare will increase only 6.3 percent more than without it.
But, in truth, this is simply a monetary argument from interests on both sides of the debate. We feel the greatest interest belongs to the people of Kentucky. We feel the greatest priority should be placed on improving the health and welfare of our people. Expanding coverage to nearly 300,000 people is a good step in that direction.
We’re tired of reading report after report listing the health of Kentucky’s people at the bottom nationally. That is especially the case in Eastern Kentucky, where here in Perry County we ranked as the 119th unhealthiest county out of 120, according to a recent study. In fact, the vast majority of the bottom 20 counties are here in Eastern Kentucky.
There are many dire needs in our region of the state, from jobs to education to better access to health care. Here is one instance where our government, which the people fund, can opt to very possibly improve the lives of its citizens. We urge Gov. Beshear to do so.
— The Hazard Herald