By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky applauded Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision last week to expand the state’s Medicaid health insurance program to cover an additional 300,000 uninsured Kentuckians.
“Our position has been that health care is a basic human right,” said Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the conference which represents the state’s four bishops. “This was an opportunity to expand access to insurance and health care to more than 300,000 low-income Kentuckians who didn’t have it. It was the moral thing to do.”
The expansion of the federal Medicaid health insurance program will extend its benefits to people whose incomes are below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That means an estimated 308,000 Kentuckians who are uninsured will be eligible for Medicaid coverage.
Gov. Beshear said in an announcement about the expansion May 9 that it is “the single-most important decision in our lifetime for improving the health of Kentuckians.”
The expansion, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, is part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A news release from the Governor’s office said the federal government will carry the cost of the expansion for the first three years.
While the cost of the program was a concern initially, the governor said in a release, those concerns have been diminished by several studies that show expansion will have a positive economic impact.
He estimates that the expansion will create nearly 17,000 jobs and will have a “$15.6 billion-positive economic impact on the state between its beginning in Fiscal Year 2014 and full implementation in Fiscal Year 2021.”
These figures are based on an analysis conducted by Kentucky government and studies by the University of Louisville and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the release said.
“We have now done the exhaustive research — and our conclusion matched what most other states have found: by expanding Medicaid, Kentucky will come out ahead in terms of both health outcomes and finances,” Gov. Beshear said in the release. “In fact, if we don’t expand Medicaid, we will lose money.”
Father Delahanty said that if these estimates are accurate, “it is not only good for people without access to health care, it’s also going to create jobs for people. It’s a win-win for everybody.”