Andrea Bennett

Jeffersontown, KY – Children are already reaping the benefits of more Kentucky parents having health insurance due to Medicaid expansion, according to a new special report from Kentucky Youth Advocates. The report, Medicaid Expansion in Kentucky: Benefits to Kids and Families, examines the numerous family and child health benefits that have resulted from more parents having affordable health coverage.

“The research is clear. Parent health impacts child health,” said Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates. “When parents are covered, their children are more likely to be insured as well. Parents are also more likely to take their children to the doctor for well-child exams and are in a better state of health to keep their families financially secure when they have health insurance.”

Medicaid expansion for low-income adults—including many parents—up to 138% of the federal poverty level was included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health care system reform bill signed into law in 2010. The provision to expand Medicaid became optional for states in a federal Supreme Court ruling in 2012. In 2014, Kentucky expanded Medicaid, which has resulted in thousands of adults, including many low-income parents, obtaining affordable health insurance. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Kentuckians aged 18-64 fell by 42 percent between 2013 and 2014.

The report highlights recent research that paints a promising picture of early outcomes in states that have implemented Medicaid expansion. A study in Kentucky found that in 2014, Medicaid expansion enrollees utilized common preventive care services, such as medication monitoring and cholesterol screening services, at higher rates than traditional Medicaid enrollees in the state. If parents are accessing these services, they are able to be healthier and better care for their children.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau also suggests that Kentucky children are seeing the benefits of Medicaid expansion in their health coverage. Between 2013 and 2014—when many more parents enrolled in benefits through Medicaid expansion—Kentucky saw a 27 percent drop in the number of uninsured children.

“Many of those children were already eligible for affordable coverage, but parents may not have known about their child’s eligibility until they signed up for coverage themselves. Getting more kids covered is a great indirect impact of covering more parents in Kentucky,” said Brooks.

In August 2016, Governor Bevin’s Administration submitted an 1115 Waiver proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which would make several changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid program. Most of the proposed changes in the waiver, called Kentucky HEALTH, directly impact individuals and parents who received coverage through expanded Medicaid in 2014. These individuals will face new requirements to maintain Medicaid coverage, such as increasing monthly premiums, lockout periods for failure to pay premiums, and a reduced standard benefit package that excludes dental and vision coverage.

The Medicaid Waiver protects children, pregnant women, and former foster children up to age 26 from many of the direct impacts of the waiver; however, the added requirements for many parents will create barriers for them to maintain coverage. Research from other states found that if parents lose coverage due to not being able to fulfill added requirements, their children will experience negative impacts as well. For example, parents may not know that their child remains eligible if they lose coverage and, as a result, not re-enroll their child in coverage when it comes time for renewal.

“It is important for Kentucky to find a solution to ensure Medicaid expansion continues in a way that is simple for families to understand and utilize while also being sustainable for the state. We encourage the Bevin Administration to negotiate in good faith with the CMS on a solution that works for parents and their children. Kentucky cannot afford to move backwards on health coverage. It’s a crucial time for the state to make lasting, positive impacts on health outcomes for children and families across the state,” added Brooks.

The full report is available here.