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.
Representatives of the state's health department and various hospital executives say almost two years later they are still having payment issues with Medicaid managed care organizations.
Speaking before a House budget subcommittee on health issues, the two groups described situations in which payment for care they administrated months ago were still outstanding claims.
Scott Lockard works in the Clark County Health Department and told lawmakers the state public health department was still owed more than $18 million in late payments. More than $14 million of that is with Kentucky Spirit, which is trying to break its contract and leave the system.
But he added that conversations about those payments are ongoing.