Tags: Healthcare Reform | Kentucky | Medicaid

Kentuckians Swell Medicaid Rolls, Avoid Obamacare Exchanges

By    |   Tuesday, 30 December 2014 03:07 PM

Kentucky is often touted in the mainstream media as an Obamacare success story. But the reality appears much more complicated, according to a new report in The New York Times.

On the upside, hospital revenues and healthcare jobs are increasing, more Kentuckians are getting preventative checkups, and the uninsured rate has plummeted.

At the same time, however, much of the short-run improvement is being attributed to the state's decision to expand Medicaid, a program on the verge of financial collapse, according to Townhall.

Nearly 400,000 people (almost one in ten Kentuckians) have been added to the Medicaid rolls since Gov. Steven L. Beshear, a Democrat, expanded the state's Medicaid program over the objections of Republicans in a state that is becoming increasingly conservative.

By contrast, the Times reported that, as the first year of coverage ends, relatively few people have signed up for private insurance plans offered through Kynect, Kentucky's online marketplace.

People earning between 138 and 400 percent of the poverty level – between about $16,000 and $47,000 for a single person – are eligible for subsidies to pay for the coverage.

But even with the subsidies as an incentive, only about 76,000 Kentuckians signed up for these plans in 2014 and have renewed the coverage for next year, according to the Times. An additional 9,000 people selected exchange plans since the 2015 enrollment period began on Nov. 15. State officials had estimated that about 340,000 uninsured Kentuckians would get private coverage.

David Elson, 61, signed up for private health insurance in February. Later, however, Elson – who said his business installing security systems would earn him $28,000 in a good year – concluded that he couldn't afford the $350 monthly premium for a plan that included his doctors. (The full plan cost $600 a month, but he qualified for a $250 subsidy).

Elson, who suffers from maladies that include advanced diabetes and high blood pressure, failed to pay his bill and eventually lost his coverage. His poor health got worse, and in October, he landed in the hospital with end-stage kidney disease.

In the end, Elson was rescued – not by Medicaid or through the Obamacare exchanges, but through Medicare. Because he needed dialysis to stay alive, he was eligible for the program, which is generally limited to persons age 65 and older.
"The president gets up there and says, 'we’ve got to get affordable health care for our people,' " Elson said regarding Obamacare. "It’s not."

National polls "have found that many people simply consider the exchange plans unaffordable, even with subsidies," the Times noted.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do in that area," said Bill Wagner, the executive director of Family Health Centers, a network of community clinics.

This year, the network helped 700 people enroll in private plans and 7,000 in Medicaid.

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Kentucky is often touted in the mainstream media as an Obamacare success story. But the reality appears much more complicated, according to a new report in The New York Times.
Kentucky, Medicaid
Tuesday, 30 December 2014 03:07 PM
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