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Spotlighting Medicaid's Role in Keeping KY Communities Healthy

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Pike County, Ky. resident "Vickie" says being on Medicaid saved her life. (Confirm Credit)
Pike County, Ky. resident "Vickie" says being on Medicaid saved her life. (Confirm Credit)
 By Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY - Producer, Contact
March 2, 2021

CORBIN, Ky. -- Insulin medication, cystic-fibrosis treatment and wisdom-tooth removal are just a few of the healthcare needs of Appalachian residents met by Medicaid.

Individual cases are featured in a series of video stories on appalachiansformedicaid.org, a website that examines how the program has saved lives.

Cara Stewart, director of policy advocacy at Kentucky Voices for Health and an eastern Kentuckian, said she's seen firsthand how Medicaid has improved community health.

She believes it's an example of what an accessible healthcare system looks like, and said everyone, regardless of income, should have the option to choose Medicaid.

"It's important to me to lift up the experiences of real people," Stewart explained. "Everybody knows somebody with Medicaid, and everybody interacts with somebody with Medicaid practically every day, whether you think about it or not."

More than 1.6 million Kentuckians have health coverage through Medicaid, and research shows expanding the program has driven a dramatic decline in the state's uninsured rate in recent years.

But Stewart noted for many families, barriers to access remain, especially among the state's Latino and immigrant populations.

Michael Wynn, a Medicaid outreach and enrollment specialist based in Corbin, said during the pandemic, many Kentuckians lost their health coverage and were unaware they might be eligible.

"A guy the other day needed a colonoscopy," Wynn recounted. "He couldn't afford it, he didn't realize that he could qualify because of expanded Medicaid. And so, we were able to get him a medical card and he was able to get the test done, and it saved his life."

Last month, President Joe Biden opened a special enrollment period for Americans needing health insurance amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Between now and May 15, Kentuckians can apply for coverage or make changes to an existing plan on the healthcare.gov website.

Wynn added people whose Presumptive Eligibility coverage ends soon, if they are not income-eligible for regular Medicaid, should know they have other options.

Disclosure: Kentucky Voices for Health contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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