Business leaders discuss possibility of expanding Medicaid through private insurance

By Molly Burchett
Kentucky Health News

Some Kentucky business leaders are discussing a possible endorsement of expanding Medicaid through private insurance, in a plan similar to one the federal government approved for Arkansas.

The Health Policy Council of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce discussed the idea last Friday. A talking paper for the meeting highlighted presumed benefits of the approach, in which people newly eligible for Medicaid could use federal funds to buy private insurance through the insurance exchange that the state is constructing.

The health council has yet to decide the chamber’s position on Medicaid expansion, but the council’s talking paper said expanding Medicaid privately might be a better option than expansion of traditional Medicaid, considering the state’s tight budget and already problematic managed care system.

The paper says a private plan would be beneficial to Kentucky because it would allow market forces to control costs and ultimately result in better health care. Private expansion would also prevent a flood of newly eligible people from entering the managed care system. “If Kentucky accepts the traditional Medicaid expansion, everyone that
qualifies would be put into the already struggling managed care system, which
until changes are made, cannot support the influx,” the paper asserted.

The Obama administration has encouraged states to consider the Arkansas approach, the paper says.  To do so, states need to apply for a waiver, and the administration has provided information on how a state would apply. “Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Maine and Pennsylvania are all looking into
this option,” the paper said.

An estimated 181,000 uninsured adults would become eligible for Medicaid in 2014, if Kentucky decides to accept the funds offered by the health law to provide coverage to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Gov. Steve Beshear has said he will make his decision about Medicaid expansion no later than July 1. His office has declined to say whether the privatized option is under consideration, saying, “The governor is considering multiple issues as he
determines whether Kentucky will expand Medicaid eligibility.  Along with affordability for the state, he is
also looking at potential economic impact through jobs and investment created
by possible expansion, as well anticipated changes in health outcomes for
newly-eligible Kentuckians.”

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