Our View: Recent study highlights value of Medicaid

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

As elected officials in Washington, D.C. continue to push another round of plans to “repeal or replace” the Affordable Care Act, now is the perfect time to ensure that those representing the Commonwealth understand the positive impact a key component of the legislation had on Kentuckians.

A recent study by the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, in collaboration with the Ohio State University and Emory University, found that the Medicaid expansion had a significant impact here at home. And, much as expected, the program mostly benefited children and others living in high poverty areas of the state.

As much as it pains many people to admit, that designation encompasses a large portion of the state.

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Joseph Benitez, Ph.D., assistant professor in Louisville’s Department of Health Management and System Sciences and member of the school’s Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, said in a prepared release that the findings strongly support the assertion that expanding Medicaid was one of the key components that helped address many of the health care needs of our poorest citizens.

“Most of the reduction in Kentucky’s uninsured rate between 2013 through 2015 was driven by an uptake in coverage within ZIP codes of high poverty concentrations,” Benitez said. “Similarly, the study revealed statistically and substantively meaningful reductions in the number of Kentuckians who delayed or decided not to seek medical care due to cost, in addition to having a regular source of medical care. These findings were almost entirely concentrated among Kentuckians living in poorer ZIP codes.”

This data builds on a previous study conducted by Benitez and the university that found the uninsured rate among Kentucky households with annual incomes below $25,000 dropped from 35 percent in 2013 to almost 10 percent by the end of 2014. The same households also saw a 50 percent reduction in the number of those who said they opted to skip medical care because they simply couldn’t afford to pay the bills.

“It is clear from this study that expanding Medicaid helps address the health care needs of the impoverished, Benitez said. “Using Kentucky as a case example to study the effects of the ACA across geographic areas holds lessons for policy makers weighing the costs and benefits of ACA participation,”

Truer words may have never been spoken.

Clearly some portions of the Affordable Care Act were flawed and these should be corrected or eliminated. We just hope lawmakers on both sides of the aisle put political agendas aside to truly analyze this and all other available information.

Real data must drive decisions to change our health care system, with the laser-like focus on improving the lives and health of all Kentuckian.