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Study: More Kentuckians Learning of Chronic Health Problems

Kentucky made significant gains in both health care access and coverage, according to a new study which tracks the impact of the Affordable Care Act. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Kentucky made significant gains in both health care access and coverage, according to a new study which tracks the impact of the Affordable Care Act. (Greg Stotelmyer)
March 14, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A detailed study tracking the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Kentuckians finds significant gains in both access to health care and the number of people who have insurance.

Susan Zepeda, president and CEO at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says her organization commissioned a Minnesota-based health policy research institute to track things such as access, cost and quality of care.

One year into the three-year study, Zepeda says the results show more Kentuckians are becoming aware they have a chronic health condition.

"Which you might infer means that more of them are getting access to those screenings, those diagnostic tests, and being told perhaps for the first time that they had a chronic health condition," she states.

The study found the prevalence of chronic disease among Kentucky adults was at just over 29 percent in 2014, up more than 2 percent from 2012 – something expected, in part, because the state expanded Medicaid.

Gabriela Alcalde, the foundation's vice president for policy and programs, says the dramatic drop in the state's uninsured rate – nearly 5 percent from 2012 to 2014 – has had a "very positive" impact.

"So that's the main headline,” she stresses. “Many, many more Kentuckians have access to care and they're using more preventive care, which is also very good."

The study also found visits to the emergency room dropped 5.5 percent in the past year, which Alcalde says can be attributed to increased access to other sources of care.

She says years two and three of the study will dig much deeper into provider and consumer experiences. And, while there have been no big surprises yet, Alcalde says the first-year findings do show how Kentucky's handling of the Affordable Care Act compares to other states.

"Because each state has implemented it in a different way,” she explains. “So it offers a natural experiment that we can really see what different health policy choices can have an impact on health outcomes, health access and the cost of health care."

Kentucky's new governor, Matt Bevin, is in the process of dismantling the state-based health exchange and he's also trying to change how Medicaid is delivered.

Alcalde says because of the lag in data, the impact of those changes will not be part of the foundation's three-year study.


Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY