Kentucky leads way in Medicaid enrollment during pandemicJuly 29, 2020
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear spoke to the media Sunday after conferring with Dr. Deborah Birx, White House COVID-19 coordinator, amid rising cases.
Louisville Courier Journal
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After losing their jobs with a construction company, Peggy Mitchell and her husband also lost their health coverage, a situation that grew more worrying when COVID-19 began to spread in Kentucky.
“With this pandemic, it was terrifying,” Mitchell said.
But about two months ago, the Mitchells discovered they were eligible for Medicaid under expanded coverage for low-income adults that Kentucky adopted in 2013, made possible through the Affordable Care Act.
“This health coverage was a godsend,” said Mitchell, 56, who lives with her husband in Okolona. “It has truly been a blessing for us.”
Kentucky leads the nation in the rate of people gaining coverage through the federal-state plan as people lose jobs and health insurance during the pandemic, according to a July 24 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It found Kentucky’s Medicaid program — which now covers more than 1.5 million people, nearly one-third of the state’s population — grew 7% between March and April.
That comes amid record unemployment and record loss of employer-based health coverage nationwide, largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent report by Families USA, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy group.
Earlier: State awards nearly $8B in Medicaid business, but Louisville-based Passport not chosen
Kentucky’s 2013 decision to opt into Medicaid expansion has added about a half-million people to the government health plan and broadened it into a one that allows low-income adults to enroll in the program once limited mostly to poor children, pregnant women, individuals with disabilities and elderly persons in nursing homes.
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s overall rate of people with no health coverage remains low, at about 5.5%, while Black residents lack insurance at a slightly higher rate of 6.4%, according to a recent analysis by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Kentucky’s top ranking in Medicaid enrollment pleases health officials with the administration of Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, who took office in December vowing to promote accessible health coverage.
“We thinks it’s good for people to have health care coverage during a pandemic,” said Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Further, Kentucky’s $12 billion-a-year Medicaid program, funded mostly with federal money, is a major source of support for doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others who provide care to Kentuckians, he said.
“The health care industry in Kentucky would collapse it it weren’t for Medicaid,” Friedlander said. “The money goes to providers.”
Having health coverage is especially critical during the pandemic, said state Medicaid Commissioner Lisa Lee.
“We just don’t want anyone to fear going to the doctor because they can’t…