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Report: Medicaid Expansion a Boost for Rural Kentucky

As early adopter of Medicaid expansion, Kentucky experienced one of the greatest decreases in the number of uninsured adults. (Pixabay)
As early adopter of Medicaid expansion, Kentucky experienced one of the greatest decreases in the number of uninsured adults. (Pixabay)
September 26, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. - New research illustrates the significant impact Medicaid expansion is having in Kentucky, especially in rural areas.

Among states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to the findings, uninsured rates for low-income adults living in rural areas and small towns fell more than three times more than in non-expansion states.

As an early adopter of expansion, said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, Kentucky experienced one of the greatest decreases in uninsured adults.

"The majority of our population live outside of metro areas," she said, "and so what we're seeing here is (that) of the people who were previously uninsured living in those rural areas, two out of three have now gotten insurance coverage because of Medicaid expansion."

The report, released by Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families and the University of North Carolina, said that disparities in coverage rates between metro and rural areas have largely been eliminated.

The study's co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown center, said improved coverage rates help create a more stable health-care system, which is crucial for rural communities because of the care and the jobs they provide.

"There's so much research about this," she said. "So, from an economic perspective, having health insurance, having this Medicaid coverage, is really important in these rural areas, which are already struggling with higher rates of unemployment and poverty."

Beauregard said it's a misconception that Medicaid expansion only helps single, non-working adults. She explained that the majority who benefit are low-income workers, many of whom have families.

"These are parents who just weren't eligible for Medicaid before the expansion," she said. "So not only are they able to be healthier, better parents, they're more employable, they're able to have more financial security. It benefits their kids and it benefits their communities."

It's estimated that about one-fourth of all uninsured adults are parents.

The report is online at georgetown.edu.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY