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More KY Parents Have Health Insurance; That's Good for Their Kids

Kentucky's huge drop in uninsured adults is good for both parents and their kids, say children's advocates. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Kentucky's huge drop in uninsured adults is good for both parents and their kids, say children's advocates. (Greg Stotelmyer)
September 14, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The percentage of Americans without insurance is at an all-time low. A new census survey finds that more than 9 percent are uninsured nationwide, and it's even lower in Kentucky, at 6 percent.

Sonya Begay of Berea, who is raising three teenage grandchildren, said she began receiving Medicaid last year with the expansion, allowing her to reinvest what she had been spending on her own medical needs.

"Once I got the Medicaid, it alleviates all of that expense," she said. "Now, that can be re-transfered over to things for the kids, in regards to school events, school supplies - you know, things of that nature."

The new census numbers show that Kentucky reduced its uninsured population by more than 8 percent from 2013 to 2015 . It was one of four states to achieve such a large drop. That includes an additional 12,000 children.

When parents are covered, said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, it helps improve the health of the entire family - which also is documented in a recent KYA report.

"Whether it is making sure that kids who are covered get wellness checks," he said. "Kids who are covered tend to have illnesses treated earlier, and that means they're less severe. There's a whole scope of positives that come when kids are covered."

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 96 percent of Kentucky's children had health insurance last year, up from 94 percent in 2013, the year before Medicaid expansion.

As Kentucky seeks to change how Medicaid is administered through waivers from the federal government, Brooks warned of unintended consequences. Gov. Matt Bevin has said the state will continue to provide expanded coverage in a "fiscally responsible manner." He said he wants some people to pay premiums, which Brooks fears could indirectly affect children.

"For some parents, the premium issue can be a real door-closer," Brooks said. "If you're a low-income family, what may not seem like a significant premium to lots of folks can, in fact, be out of reach."

Brooks noted that the Bevin administration has been responsive so far, by excluding pregnant women and young people who age out of foster-care from the proposed changes to Medicaid coverage.

A KYA report is online at kyyouth.org.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY