In the span of a year, Kentucky has cut its percentage of adult residents without health insurance by more than half, according to a new Gallup survey.
The new State of the States poll estimates that in 2014, Kentucky had the second-biggest drop in the country in its number of uninsured residents. In the year in which the state launched its own health benefits exchange and expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Kentucky went from 39th nationally in rates of uninsured to 11th.
The year before, Gallup found that roughly one in five Kentucky adults were uninsured. That number was down to 9.8 percent by the end of last year. Only Arkansas saw a greater drop in its rate of uninsured.
More than 500,000 Kentuckians have enrolled for health insurance coverage through the state exchange, Kynect, since it went online in the fall of 2013. The vast majority have enrolled in the expanded Medicaid, which covers previously ineligible individuals whose income is up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Critics of the ACA and health care reform in Kentucky have questioned whether the state can afford to cover the expanded Medicaid population once it is required to pay for a share of the expansion. Under the law, the most the state would pay is 10 percent of the expansion cost in future years.
An independent study commissioned by the administration of Gov. Steve Beshear and released last week showed the state budget and economy would see a dramatic positive impact from health care reform.
Republican candidates in this year’s gubernatorial race have attacked the ACA and Beshear’s embrace of the reform in Kentucky to varying degrees. GOP candidate Matt Bevin went a step further yesterday by suggesting the study — by Deloitte Consulting LLC and the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute — was rigged. He called it “nonsense” that proves “you can get any study for the right price.”
Bevin is also the most unequivocal of the Republican candidates, saying as governor he would dismantle the exchange and end the Medicaid expansion.
In response, Beshear told IL Bevin is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.
“Just because Matt Bevin doesn’t like the sound of 40,000 jobs created and $30 billion in economic impact doesn’t mean it isn’t true,” said Beshear. “He offers no reasons why he doesn’t believe it, he just doesn’t like it. That’s not good enough. Voters deserve more than baseless soundbites as they evaluate candidates.”
This year’s gubernatorial race will likely determine whether Kentucky pushes forward with ACA reform or rolls it back. Gallup’s poll also found states that expanded Medicaid and set up their own exchanges saw uninsured rates drop by over 2 percent more than those states that did not. Those states’ total uninsured rate is almost 5 percent lower.
The Beshear administration announced on Tuesday that Kentuckians who have not yet enrolled for health insurance through Kynect can still sign up during the open enrollment window, which begins next week and will run through the end of April. Those who do not have health insurance in 2015 will be subject to a penalty by the IRS under the ACA’s individual mandate. The penalty is $325 for each household member or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater. In a news release, the Beshear administration noted that for many qualifying for federal subsidies, their yearly premium payments for insurance could be lower than the IRS penalty they’d face without insurance.