Paducah Sun editorial criticizing Medicaid expansion was off base; Beshear sends the newspaper a response

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The Paducah Sun relied on incomplete and inaccurate information for an editorial Thursday that criticized Gov. Steve Beshear’s expansion of the Medicaid program under federal health-care reform, and the governor is complaining about it.

The newspaper said Beshear had created a “financial mess” because when he was running for governor, he “told our editorial board that he had ‘no
idea where we would get the money’ to pay the state’s share of the cost of Medicaid expansion if the
Affordable Care Act was passed. He still doesn’t.”

Actually, when he announced the Medicaid expansion a year ago, Beshear cited a study by the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers which concluded that the expansion would pay for itself by adding patients to the health-care system and creating 17,000 jobs by the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The editorial made no mention of the study. Beshear’s communications director, Kerri Richardson, told the paper Tuesday that the editorial was “grossly misleading, and we are disappointed that your editorial board has chosen not to seek information from anyone in our administration regarding actions on the Affordable Care Act.”

In the formal response from Beshear, submitted for publication, the governor says the editorial “was so breathtakingly disingenuous that it demands a factual response. That a newspaper of this size would trot out such unsubstantiated tripe disguised as analysis is a disservice to its readers.”

Sun Editor Steve Wilson said the editorial was written by Publisher Jim Paxton, who did not return a call seeking comment. The Sun’s editorials generally support conservative causes and Republicans; Beshear is a Democrat and the only Southern governor to both expand Medicaid and create a health-insurance exchange under the reform law.

The editorial also misstated when Kentucky would have to start sharing in the cost of care for the newly eligible Medicaid recipients, those with household incomes between 69 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. It cited a study by the conservative Heritage Foundation which “suggests that even when savings
from ACA managed-care features are added in, the expansion will cost
Kentucky an additional $846 million between 2014 and 2022.”

Actually, the state will not have to pay anything for the newly eligibles until 2017 because the federal government will pick up the entire cost until then. In 2017, the state will have to pay 5 percent of their cost, rising to a cap of 10 percent in 2020. Republican critics of the law have said the cap will have to be raised, but have not found fault with the study.

Studies by the accounting firm and the University of Louisville‘s Urban Studies Center, drawing on Congressional Budget Office data, estimated the state would actually gain $802 million through the 2020-21 fiscal year from Medicaid expansion. “Without
expansion, our budget would see a negative impact of nearly $40 million,
because we would be forced to absorb costs such as increased payments to
hospitals for uncompensated care, ” Beshear wrote. “In other words, the state would lose money if we didn’t expand.” Click here for the rest of his reply.

Beshear said in his response that he sent the Sun an op-ed piece a year ago this week explaining the facts, but the paper apparently refused to publish it.

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