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As Medicaid Turns 50, Nearly a Million Kentuckians are Covered

Nearly a million Kentuckians are now covered by Medicaid as it turns 50 this week. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
Nearly a million Kentuckians are now covered by Medicaid as it turns 50 this week. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
July 27, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Medicaid turns 50 Thursday, and in Kentucky, with expansion under the Affordable Care Act, enrollment has swelled to 947,100 Kentuckians.

Asked what she would write in an anniversary card to Medicaid, healthcare advocate Sheila Schuster said "congratulations, keep on going." She says with an extra 400,00 Kentuckians recently qualified for the program, the key is to make sure they tap into preventive care - things like getting a colonoscopy or mammogram.

"Those are the things that work to keep people healthy," says Schuster. "We've got hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians who have never really thought about their health except how sick they are."

Medicaid expansion has become a wedge issue in the governor's race, with the candidates differing on whether or not to roll back expansion.

But, as the 50th anniversary nears, advocates are focusing on the good Medicaid has done, especially for children. An analysis by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy finds that 44 percent of the births in the state are covered by Medicaid, and 462,000 children get their health care through the program.

The Center's communications director Kenny Colston says that has long-term benefits for kids.

"It's not just health that we are talking about here," says Colston. "It's financial stability and it's economic progress for these children."

Between Medicaid and the state's health insurance program for children, KCHIP, fewer than six percent of Kentucky's kids are now uninsured.

Schuster, with the Action Advocacy Network, says the increased enrollment means most children are getting the immunizations they need, and there are more early diagnoses being made on health and behavioral problems.

"If you can nip those things at the early stages, you can save all of us, not only a lot a lot of money, but you can save that individual and their family a lot of grief and heartache," Schuster.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY