Andrea Bennett

Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

New health insurance data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that health insurance coverage rates for people of all ages in Kentucky increased from 85.7 percent in 2013 to 94.0 percent in 2015. Kentucky’s overall coverage rate is now tied with two other states at 10th in the nation. The one-year estimates from the American Community Survey revealed that 95.8 percent of Kentucky children under 18 had health insurance in 2015, compared with 94.1 percent in 2013. This is an estimated increase of 12,000 children. In addition, coverage for those under age 65, which includes both children and adults, increased from 83.4 percent in 2013 to 93.0 percent in 2015. Kentucky’s 2015 estimate for health insurance coverage of people under age 65 is also better than the national estimate of 89.1 percent.

Data from 2013 provides a benchmark for comparison, as more low-income adults became eligible for coverage through Medicaid expansion in January 2014.

“The newly released data shows that Kentucky is continuing progress in covering more children and adults. We know that health insurance is the gateway to getting needed health care and Kentucky should be proud of the gains made in health insurance coverage for kids and their parents,” said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Eligibility for children in Medicaid and the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP) did not change from 2013 to 2015, indicating that the increases in coverage for children were likely an indirect result of more parents gaining health insurance through Medicaid expansion and the health insurance exchange, kynect.

“The impact of more adult Kentuckians having health insurance is good news for kids. We know that when parents have health insurance, their children are more likely to have health insurance and they are more likely to take their children to the doctor for preventive care,” said Dr. Brooks.

While Kentucky continues to reduce its uninsured population, proposed changes to the Medicaid program by the Bevin Administration through an 1115 Waiver could reverse Kentucky’s gains in health coverage. The proposal would add more requirements for individuals covered under Medicaid expansion to maintain Medicaid coverage. If individuals fail to keep up the requirements, they will lose coverage.

Governor Bevin submitted his Administration’s 1115 Medicaid Waiver proposal to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and it is now open for public comment until October 8. After this timeframe, the Bevin Administration will be in a period of negotiation with CMS over the final waiver proposal. The proposal must be approved by CMS before it can be implemented in Kentucky.

“We know Medicaid needs to be sustainable long-term. But we also know that the Medicaid program must be simple and affordable for families. If parents lose coverage due to these added requirements, such as unaffordable premiums as outlined in the proposal, they may not know to renew their child’s coverage each year and as a result, many children could get dropped from coverage. We cannot afford to let this happen to our kids. We encourage Governor Bevin to negotiate with CMS on a Medicaid proposal that continues affordable coverage for families and does not result in people losing coverage,” said Dr. Brooks.

For more information or to request an interview, contact Andrea Bennett at 502-381-1176. Stay tuned Thursday for updated estimates on child poverty.