Some students headed to college this fall will get top-drawer health coverage at little or no cost.
How? Medicaid, it turns out, will pay the premium for the student health plan.
Proponents say students who are eligible for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people, get access to a wider network of doctors and hospitals by getting coverage through the college health plans. These broad networks can be an important consideration for students who travel for internships, international study or who return to homes far from school during the summer.
Gov. Steve Beshear has scheduled a news briefing Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on efforts to implement federal health care reforms in Kentucky.
The event is set for 1 p.m. EDT at the Capitol.
Beshear has been an advocate for the reforms that he says will provide access to medical care to more than 600,000 uninsured Kentucky residents. Nearly half of those will be added to the state's Medicaid program. The remainder, he said, will be able to get insurance through an online health benefits exchange.
Joining Beshear for the briefing will be Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes, Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange Executive Director Carrie Banahan and Kentucky Department of Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark.
Kentucky is one of six states along with Puerto Rico that will participate in a program to help drive down medical costs by targeting frequent healthcare system users.
Staff from the National Governors Association and other experts will help train officials from participating states to develop a plan for super-utilizers. These are patients who may benefit from less costly, more appropriate treatment elsewhere.
Dr. Stephanie Mayfield is commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Public Health. She says the commonwealth will focus on frequent emergency room users. Last year, thousands of Medicaid patients used the ER 10 times or more.
“What we’re hoping the plan will be is that emergency rooms are there strictly to be used as emergency rooms and that we develop a plan so that they’re not de facto primary care centers any longer," says Mayfield.
The training academy will help participating states develop plans around healthcare policy. The program will run for a year and begins in August.
The planned expansion of Kentucky's Medicaid program coupled with a push to help the uninsured obtain health coverage could exacerbate the state's shortage of physicians, according to a report released Wednesday.
Deloitte Consulting, a technology firm that's helping to set up the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, unveiled the report showing Kentucky's 10,475 primary care physicians and specialists are far short of the actual need.
However, the firm concluded that Kentucky would need to find ways to increase the number of doctors and other medical professionals even if it didn't expand medical coverage to more than 600,000 new patients.
After months of deliberations, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has decided to expand Medicaid in Kentucky under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare—a move that's won praise from Democrats and health advocacy groups.
Beshear said Thursday that expansion benefits Kentucky in many ways.
"This move makes sense not only for our health but also for our pocketbook. More important it makes sense for our future," he says.
The expansion will insure more than 308,000 Kentuckians. And according to studies done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville, Medicaid expansion would bring about $800 million to Kentucky between next year and 2021.
Beshear says critics of the expansion are more worried about politics than good policy.
"They express vague and broad anxieties about costs, fears which the facts refute and they fall back on partisan national politics. If Kentucky expands Medicaid they ask, won't Kentucky be supporting Obamacare, they ask. Well to them I say, Get over it," he says.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is set to announce whether or not he’ll expand Kentucky’s Medicaid program.
The Governor’s office says Beshear will share his decision Thursday at a 1:30 p.m. eastern time news conference at the state capitol building.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, each state has the option of expanding its Medicaid services to those earning less than 133 percent of the poverty rate. The federal government has agreed to pay each state’s additional costs related to expansion for the first three years, with Washington picking up 90 percent of the tab each following year.
Some conservatives and Tea Party activists have called on Beshear not to agree to the expansion, saying the commonwealth can’t afford any additional costs.
Supporters say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to extend the program to a wider number of Kentuckians who are struggling with high health care costs.
Health departments across Kentucky continue to make cuts because of a dispute between the state and a managed-care company hired to help serve Medicaid patients.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the cuts include laying off workers, ending school health programs and decreasing clinic hours.
Kentucky Health Departments Association President Scott Lockard told the newspaper that health departments cut 53 workers last year, and another 95 have been cut this year. He said some departments are facing furloughs through July 1.
The Madison County Health Department, for example, announced the end of its school nurse program in February. Fayette County's health department ended that program last year.
Previous naysayers are coming around to the idea of expanding TennCare. Even while criticizing the Affordable Care Act, they say pulling more poor people into the state’s Medicaid program could have some upsides.
Other Republican-led states have taken the leap, even as Governor Bill Haslam continues to weigh the pros and cons.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says at first, all he could see was that after three years, the state would have to start picking up part of the tab.
“There are some other facts that have come to light since then that would offset some of those expenses. That’s why I have an open mind about it.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will make up his mind on whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program by the end of the month. He says he’ll leave time for the state legislature to consider his decision.
There’s no pressing deadline except that the state legislature intends to wrap up work in April and Haslam needs lawmakers to sign off either way. If he does go along with the Affordable Care Act and expand the state’s Medicaid program, it could take a lot of convincing.
“If the decision is no, then their discussion is short I think. If the decision is yes, then I think they’ll need a decent amount of time to discuss that,” said the Republican Governor.
Two Republican lawmakers are still trying to advance bills that would bar the state from expanding Medicaid. They argue the state still can’t afford it even though the federal government pays the bill for the first three years.