FRANKFORT (AP) — When Kentucky officials launched a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to promote its new health care options, including an expanded Medicaid program, they assumed they might find a few thousand people who qualified under the old program.
Instead, they found an extra 60,000 people — adding another $124 million a year to the state cost of providing health insurance to those who can’t afford it. That was part of the grim picture new Medicaid Commissioner Stephen Miller showed state lawmakers on Tuesday, saying the state cost for the system will swell to $3.7 billion over the next two years, a 20 percent increase.
“That’s what raises a lot of concern about the sustainability going forward,” Miller said.
Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act. The expansion brought in an additional 428,000 people, far more than state officials had predicted. Yet the federal government paid for all of them for the first three years of the program.
But in the promotion of the new plan, state officials found an additional 60,000 people who qualified under the old program. The federal government paid for 70 percent of their cost, leaving the state to pay the rest. Miller said the 60,000 people were about 10 times the amount officials had estimated.
And next year, Kentucky taxpayers will begin paying for a portion of the 428,000 people that joined the expanded Medicaid program. Miller said that will cost $257 million.
In his first budget proposal, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has not made any changes to the Medicaid budget over the next two years. But he wants to make big changes to the program in the future. His proposal, set to be revealed this summer, could make fewer people eligible for Medicaid and requires others to pay a small premium for the service.
Some Democratic House members, wary of Bevin’s potential changes, questioned Miller on Tuesday for the need to change a program they say is working fine and has caused dramatic decreases in the number of Kentuckians without health insurance.
“The concern has been, candidly, what the cost is,” Miller said.
Democratic state Rep. Jim Wayne of Louisville said everyone has a right to health care, adding he likely would have died last summer if he did not have health insurance to pay for his cancer treatments.
“This system may not be profitable. But as a commonwealth, we say it is beneficial to our people,” he said.