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Preventive Health Screenings Up in KY

A study shows expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky has led to an increase in preventive screenings for adults. (Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky)
A study shows expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky has led to an increase in preventive screenings for adults. (Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky)
December 1, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – More Kentuckians are getting preventive health screenings, and a new study shows Medicaid expansion is a big reason why.

Research commissioned by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky shows a huge spike in oral health screenings.

For example, in the second quarter of 2016, Medicaid paid for more than 43,000 Kentucky adults to get dental checkups – many of them for the first time in years.

Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, who chairs the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition, says the screenings often identified high blood pressure in the patient, leading to a referral to a primary care physician.

"The heart disease is a silent condition, so a lot of them aren't aware that it is something that they're experiencing, unlike their toothache, which is very painful for them," she explains.

Hancock Jones says chronic infection in the mouth often impacts a person’s general health. The ongoing study into the impact of the Affordable Care Act by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky also shows a steady increase in screenings of Medicaid patients for breast and colorectal cancer, diabetes and Hepatitis C.

Gabriela Alcalde, the Foundation's vice president for policy and programs, notes that among the Medicaid population, nearly nine out of every 10 women screened for breast cancer obtained coverage when Medicaid was expanded.

Alcalde says that's significant because lower-income women face a higher risk of later-stage breast cancer.

"Now they have access through screening and they have access to the care that's necessary should they have to have any treatment or follow-up,” she states. “Increasing access through health care not only improves health, but it also protects people economically."

Hancock Jones oversees a dental clinic that serves five counties in western Kentucky. She says many of the patients who obtained oral health coverage through Medicaid expansion came to the dentist before the doctor, making it a "triage point" for health care.

Hancock Jones says that underscores the importance of collaborative health care.

"Just trying to coordinate with the different behavioral health specialists and the primary care physicians is really what's best for patients,” she states. “The ability to care coordinate is really improving the care that's delivered in the state."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY