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KY Senators Fight to Preserve Medicaid Benefits

Medicaid expansion has reduced the number of uninsured adults in Kentucky by more than 460,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (@thegoldenmonoclenyc/Twenty20)
Medicaid expansion has reduced the number of uninsured adults in Kentucky by more than 460,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (@thegoldenmonoclenyc/Twenty20)
February 28, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Two new bills introduced in the Kentucky Senate would require Medicaid to cover dental and eye doctor visits, and would prohibit healthcare providers from charging co-pays to Medicaid recipients.

Current dental coverage for Kentucky adults receiving Medicaid is limited. Senate Bill 78 would allow them the same range of dental care as children and young adults, including routine exams. It would also expand coverage for eye care.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, the bill's primary sponsor, noted that the importance of dental health and its connection to other health problems is often overlooked.

"For instance, with your teeth, it actually exacerbates other medical conditions and affects most things, such as heart disease and coronary problems, and other systemic problems within the body," Neal said.

Only about six in 10 Kentucky adults have seen a dentist in the past year, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

Another new, Medicaid-related bill would prevent providers from charging co-pays.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, who sponsored Senate Bill 112, said most Medicaid recipients can't afford co-pays. He points out that the process of trying to collect payments adds administrative costs to an already expensive healthcare system.

"We spend two to three times more on healthcare than other industrialized nations. And we've talked about healthcare reform for 25 years, but I have not seen any healthcare reform," Meredith insisted. "All we've focused on is adding as many people as we possibly can at the lowest possible price. And it just creates additional regulations and reduces payments to providers, and we're just not getting the outcomes we want."

Both bills are now in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 1.2 million people in Kentucky are covered by Medicaid. More than half of the state's Medicaid spending is for people who are elderly or have disabilities.

However, since the state expanded its Medicaid program, Kentucky has seen a dramatic drop in the number of people who are uninsured.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY