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After 50 Years, Medicaid Continues to Help Kentuckians, Official Says

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Fifty years ago Thursday, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid. into law, initially creating programs to provide health care to the elderly and the poor.

The programs have been through many changes over the years. In Kentucky, the expansion of Medicaid in recent years has drastically reduced the number of uninsured individuals in the state.

Prior to implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2013, Kentucky's uninsured rate was 20.4 percent. Now, the state has the second largest drop in uninsured individuals in the country at 9.8 percent.

The Medicaid expansion has played a big role in that.

Cost had long been a barrier to receiving health care for low-income individuals and minorities, said Carrie Banahan, executive director of the Kentucky health care exchange Kynect.

"Before the Affordable Care Act we didn’t have the Medicaid expansion, and the only way individuals could obtain health insurance is if they purchased it through the commercial health insurance markets, which were very,very,very expensive," she said.

Earlier this year, a report analyzed Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. It found a total of 310,887 people enrolled in Medicaid in 2014.

The report also found the expansion had economic benefits for the state, as well. In 2014, more than 12,000 jobs were created with nearly half of them being in health care and social services. More than 40,000 jobs with an average salary of $41,000 are expected to be created by 2021.

The net economic impact to the state is estimated at $30 billion over eight years.

"And with the expansion where individuals are covered at 138 percent of the federal poverty line—that’s about $16,000 for a single individual—it’s giving people who have lower incomes, maybe making minimum wage jobs an opportunity to have healthcare coverage for the first time," Banahan said.