Beshear’s budget seeks fully funding Medicaid and support for nurses

Published 7:56 pm Thursday, January 13, 2022

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FRANKFORT – Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday outlined the part of his budget that will deal with health care, which includes fully funding Medicaid and a plan to deal with Kentucky’s critical nurse shortage.

“World-class companies are looking to Kentucky to invest, and one of their priorities is a strong and healthy workforce,” he said. “Health care is a basic human right. It’s also a key component to a growing economy. This budget promotes our Kentucky value of caring for our neighbor, while also working to capitalize on our unprecedented economic momentum.”

The governor’s budget fully funds the Medicaid program, on which one in three Kentuckians rely, including more than 660,000 Kentucky children. In addition, the Governor’s budget provides funding for 500 additional slots in the Michelle P. Waiver program and 100 additional slots for the Supports for Community Living waiver program.

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“Families across the commonwealth depend on Medicaid. It’s simply the right thing to do to fund this program and expand the services offered through it,” Beshear said.

The critical nursing shortage in Kentucky, which led the governor to declare a State of Emergency in December 2021, followed by an Executive Order to help boost enrollment in nursing training programs.

“Our nurses are the brave, compassionate health care heroes who care for our people daily,” he said. “We knew before how important they are, but now we’ve seen just how critical as we’ve navigated COVID-19. We’ve got to act and support Kentucky’s nurses as they’ve supported us since Day 1 of this pandemic.”

To help recruit and retain nurses, the governor is providing $6 million each year to increase the number of scholarships awarded to potential nurses. Current scholarships are financed by a portion of nursing licensing fees, which only supports around 150 students. The governor’s budget doubles the maximum award from $1,500 per semester to $3,000 a semester.

Another burden many nursing students face are student loans, a hurdle which the Governor’s budget addresses head on through a student loan forgiveness program that would begin in May 2022. It would provide $5 million each year for five years to provide student loan forgiveness up to $3,000 annually, for each year a nurse or nursing faculty member is employed in their position in Kentucky.

The governor’s budget also directs $2 million from the American Rescue Plan Act State Fiscal Recovery Funds to finance a marketing and outreach program for the nursing profession to enhance recruitment.

Gov. Beshear is scheduled to deliver his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly, Thursday at 7 p.m., Eastern Time. It will be broadcast statewide on KET.

Kentucky Today writer Tom Latek wrote this story.