Most Kentuckians covered by Medicaid expansion have jobs

“More than half of about 400,000 Kentuckians who gained Medicaid coverage under the federal law also known as Obamacare have jobs but did not have health insurance,” Deborah Yetter reports for The Courier-Journal, calling that “a lesser-known fact of the Medicaid expansion implemented by outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear.”

“The reality is that lots of workers can’t get health insurance through
their employers,” Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky
Center for Economic Policy
, a nonprofit research and policy organization
in Berea, told Yetter. “They have a job but they’re not getting health insurance
through their job.” The center says only 54 percent of Kentucky workers got employer-based health insurance in 2013.

In a report just after the Nov. 3 election, the center said that at least 73,800 of the 137,200 Kentuckians who gained Medicaid coverage in 2014,
the first year of expansion “were
employed but had annual incomes low enough to qualify for Medicaid,” Yetter reports. “Restaurant and food service employees accounted for the highest number
of such workers, followed by people employed in construction, retail,
landscaping, child care, farming, cooking and cleaning, said the report,
based on U.S. Census data.”

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion “say too many Kentuckians assume people who benefit from the Medicaid expansion aren’t willing to work,” Yetter writes, quoting Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of lobbying groups: “I
think there’s a misconception about who is getting covered under
Medicaid. A majority of people
are hard-working folks whose jobs don’t have health care.”

Gov.-elect Matt Bevin made such references in his campaign. He says he wants a federal waiver to allow the state to require premiums, co-payments and/or deductibles from at least some Medicaid recipients, giving them “skin in the game.” Bailey is concerned that cost-sharing would discourage people from getting the health care they need. “These people do have skin in the game,” he said. “They’re working. They’re just not making enough to buy health insurance.”

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