For Courtney McDowell of Bowling Green, life is pretty good right now, but recent years have been a struggle. Last December, at the age of 32, she earned a college degree. Before then, money was tight.
"I was one medical catastrophe away from complete and total bankruptcy," McDowell told WKU Public Radio. "I’m just glad I didn’t have any major illnesses or injuries during that period because it’s a real risk.”
When Kentucky created an online health insurance exchange known as Kynect and expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, McDowell qualified for coverage through Medicaid and remained on the government program until she graduated and began working full-time.
McDowell currently does IT work and has private health insurance through her employer, but the upcoming election makes her nervous for others who aren’t so fortunate.
The state of healthcare in Kentucky could look very different depending on who wins the governor’s race on November 3.
Kentucky could become the first state to repeal the expansion of its Medicaid program. In a September speech to the Kentucky Rural Health Association, Republican nominee Matt Bevin said the state can’t afford to have a fourth of its population on Medicaid.
"When you’re spending other people’s money, it’s easy to be successful," suggested Bevin. "We say by any measure it’s been a success. For crying out loud, it’s been 100% under-written and subsidized by other people’s money. We’re part of those other people. Federal dollars are our own dollars coming back to us.”
Currently, the federal government is picking up the entire tab for the expansion. Starting in 2017, the state must begin bearing a share of the cost estimated to be anywhere from 250 to 400 million dollars. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway, who supports the Medicaid expansion, says an improving economy would trim the Medicaid rolls.
"I agree we have too many of our citizens on Medicaid, but you fix that by growing the economy, creating better paying jobs, bringing wages up, and then people eventually roll off Medicaid," Conway remarked in an interview with WKU Public Radio.
Conway says if the state determines in the future it can’t sustain the Medicaid population, adjustments will be made.