Beshear says he will decide in four to five weeks, or July 1 at the latest, whether or not to expand Medicaid

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News
This story has been updated.

Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday that he will decide within the next four to five weeks, or maybe by July 1, whether
to expand the Medicaid program under federal health-care reform.

Beshear, who has said he would expand Medicaid if the state can afford it, told reporters that he is considering other factors, which he did not name. He said his administration has not calculated the cost of expansion, which the state would not pay immediately.

The federal government pays about 71 percent of Medicaid’s cost in Kentucky, and would pay the full cost of covering those newly eligible in 2014-16. The state would have to pay 3 percent in 2017, rising to 10 percent by 2020.

About 830,000 Kentuckians are covered by Medicaid, and at least 400,000 more could be added if Beshear expanded it to include households earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, as required by the reform law.

Another possibility is that Beshear would seek approval from the federal government to use federal money to subsidize purchase of private health insurance by the poor, which has been approved in Arkansas but not in Tennessee.

The governor’s office, asked if the administration was considering that option and what other factors Beshear is considering, has not responded had this response: “The governor is considering multiple issues as he
determines whether Kentucky will expand Medicaid eligibility.  Along with affordability for the state, he is
also looking at potential economic impact through jobs and investment created
by possible expansion, as well anticipated changes in health outcomes for
newly-eligible Kentuckians.”

That is also the case with There has still been no response from Humana Inc., which does much of its business through government-financed health plans. The Louisville-based insurance company was asked if it has had discussions with the Beshear administration about the idea of a Medicaid expansion that would use federal money to buy, or subsidize the purchase of, private health insurance.

“Beshear said Monday that he is getting a lot of pressure from the
medical field – particularly hospitals – to green-light the expansion,” Beth Musgrave of the Lexington Herald-Leader writes. “Hospitals will lose additional money they receive through Medicaid on Jan. 1 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Hospitals in Ohio and other states have also put pressure on state governments to expand Medicaid rolls.”

Beshear said, “I think they look at the expansion as a means to at least replace some of that (money) that they are going to lose.”

Many Republicans have opposed expansion, “saying that the state could not afford
it,” Musgrave writes. “The Republican-led state Senate passed a bill during the
legislative session that would have required that the two-term
Democratic governor get legislative approval before expanding the health
care program. But the measure died in the Democratic-controlled House.
Beshear could expand the program via executive order.”

Beshear said today, “We have a very large uninsured population and we have a very
unhealthy population. Anything that we can do — that we
can afford — to make our population more healthy, I”m certainly in favor
of doing.” He added, “We are looking long-term as well as short-term from a financial
standpoint to see if it makes sense for us.”

While he said he would act within four to five weeks, Beshear gave himself some wiggle room, saying also that he would make the decision by July 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year. (Read more)

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