A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New census data shows Kentucky as top state in health coverage thanks to Medicaid expansion

New Census data released Tuesday shows Kentucky’s historic progress in reducing the share of Kentuckians without health insurance coverage has continued to grow.

The new American Community Survey (ACS) data shows Kentucky’s rate dropped 8.3 percentage points between 2013 and 2015, thanks to our state’s decision to expand Medicaid and set up the successful Kynect marketplace.

Kentucky is one of only four states with at least an eight percentage point drop in the uninsured since 2013, along with California, West Virginia and Nevada.


According to the Census, 355,000 more Kentuckians had health insurance in 2015 than prior to Medicaid expansion and the creation of Kynect. While 14.3 percent were uninsured in 2013 and 8.5 percent in 2014, only 6 percent were uninsured in 2015.

“Affordable, reliable healthcare is essential to any thriving community,” Jason Bailey, Executive Director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said. “These numbers are another piece of evidence that Kentucky is a national leader in health coverage, which isn’t just a ranking, it’s changing people’s lives.”

The expansion has meant more Kentuckians have been able to get needed care for chronic conditions, make and keep primary care appointments, use the emergency room less and be more likely to report having excellent health according to a Harvard School of Public Health study published in August.

Not only has the decision to expand Medicaid in many states resulted in a greater number of people covered, but it has meant private health insurance premiums are seven percent lower on average in expansion states when compared to states that did not expand, according to a report from the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS).

There are significant economic benefits as well. Hospitals have seen a $2 billion reduction in charges for uncompensated care thanks to Medicaid expansion and the state is projected to save a net of $53.6 million during the next two fiscal years due to expansion paying for health services state agencies would otherwise be responsible for covering, according to analysis from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

And as of July of this year Kentucky has added 11,500 health care and hospital jobs in the last two years as coverage from Medicaid expansion has grown.

“Because Kentucky has seen the greatest gains, we also have the most to lose if harmful changes to Medicaid are approved,” Bailey said of the proposed waiver that was recently submitted to federal officials. The plan introduces barriers to coverage like premiums, lockouts and work requirements that would reduce the number of Kentuckians covered. “Our hope is that the Bevin administration will negotiate in earnest with the federal government to find a way to build on our successes and not move backward on our health progress.”

You can view the data here.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative that conducts research, analysis and education on important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. Launched in 2011, the Center is a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). For more information, please visit KCEP’s website at www.kypolicy.org.

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