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Food Service, Sales Workers Benefit From Kentucky's Medicaid Expansion, Study Says

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Many of the Kentuckians enrolled in Medicaid work in service sector jobs such as sales, food service and construction, according to a new study.

The study, by Families USA, a nonprofit that focuses on health care consumerism, looked at the occupations held by 18- to 64-year-olds who had incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line between 2010 and 2012.

Dee Mahan, director of Medicaid advocacy for Families USA, said low-income workers are now able to access health care through Medicaid expansion.

"These working Kentuckians have been helped by the state's decision to expand Medicaid and they hold jobs that are a critical part of the state's economy," she said.

The top nine occupations of working Kentuckians benefiting from Medicaid expansion:

•    28,000 in food service, working as fast food workers, waiters and cooks
•    21,000 in sales, working as retail salespeople, cashiers and clerks
•    19,000 in transportation as truck drivers, freight laborers and bus drivers
•    16,000 in office and administrative support, including bookkeepers, receptionists and stock clerks
•    16,000 in production, including team assemblers, machinists and welders
•    15,000 in cleaning and maintenance, including janitors and landscapers and housekeepers
•    15,000 in construction jobs, including carpenters, painters and laborers
•    10,000 in personal care, including barbers, child care workers, hairdressers and personal care aides
•    5,000 in health care support, including nursing assistants, orderlies and home health aides
•    An additional 28,000 work in a variety of other jobs

Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, said health coverage is essential for a healthy workforce and economy.

"Kentucky's health status compared to other states has been at or near the bottom of the list on a number of chronic conditions and diseases like cancer, obesity and heart disease. So, we really have to do better for ourselves," Beauregard said.

Stephanie Moore, CEO of White House Clinics, a community health center serving five central Kentucky counties, said the state's Medicaid expansion has had a significant impact on patients and employees of the clinic.

In the years before the state expanded Medicaid, patients would be uninsured while their child would be covered through Children's Health Insurance Program, she said. She said the Medicaid expansion has allowed all members of a family to have health insurance.

She said the clinic has increase its spending on salaries by more than $735,000 over the last year;  more than half of the increase was for a wage scale boost for front line staff. Moore also said 15 new positions have been created.

The Medicaid Expansion Report released by Gov. Steve Beshear's office earlier this year found that in 2014 more than 12,000 jobs were created, with nearly half of them being in health care and social services. That report estimated the expansion of Medicaid would result in the creation of more than 40,000 jobs with an average salary of $41,000 by 2021.