Beshear will expand Medicaid, Democrat and Republican say; D says governor believes the state can opt out if it’s not affordable

State legislators in both parties say they expect Gov. Steve Beshear to expand Medicaid to cover several hundred thousand more Kentuckians who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.

Rep. Tom Burch,
chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, told Ryan Alessi of cn|2’s “Pure Politics” that the governor told him exactly that last week. And Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, told Kentucky Health News that he expects Beshear to do the deed.

Burch told Alessi that Beshear has decided to move forward with the expansion because he believes the state would be able to opt out if state officials discover that Kentucky can’t afford it after 2017.

Beshear didn’t mention expansion in his State of the Commonwealth Address last week, and the governor’s office said the
official decision hadn’t been made yet but didn’t dispute Burch’s statement, Alessi reports. Here is the salient part of his interview with Burch:

Buford said Beshear will be under much political pressure to expand Medicaid because it is President Obama’s signature program and expansion will create jobs. However, Republican legislators generally  have
opposed the expansion of Medicaid because the state can’t afford it. The federal government will cover the cost of covering the extra people from 2014 through 2016. Kentucky would have to kick in 5 percent of the costs starting in 2017 and 10 percent by 2020.  

The
federal government covers roughly 70 percent of Kentucky’s $6 billion Medicaid
program. It covers more than 800,000 Kentuckians and with the expansion, that
number could grow to more than 1 million — or roughly a quarter of all
Kentuckians, reports Alessi.

“I think it’s critical that we take a look at those to see how we achieve that. I’m not sure that this would be the way that would be best-suited to Kentucky and be fiscally responsible for the state of Kentucky,” Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville and chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, told Alessi in December (at 4:10 of the interview below). “Frankly, I don’t think we can afford to do it,” she said.

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