Kentucky's uninsured rate of 7.5 percent is below that of neighboring states | Source: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Kentucky’s uninsured rate of 7.5 percent is below that of neighboring states | Source: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

A new report by the University of Minnesota shows that the percentage of Kentuckians without health insurance continues to plummet since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, reaching a new low of 7.5 percent by the end of 2015 — a rate that is now more than 4 percent below the national average.

Kentucky’s uninsured rate fell by 1.5 percent in the second half of 2015, and has dramatically decreased by nearly 13 percent since the end of 2013, when former Gov. Steve Beshear created the state insurance exchange Kynect and expanded Medicaid to those whose income was 138 percent of the federal poverty rate. That decrease over the past two years is more than double the national decline of 5.6 percent.

While Kentucky’s uninsured rate was previously over 20 percent, it now stands at well below the national rate of 11.7 percent and the 10.2 percent rate of eight states surrounding Kentucky.

insurance kynect

The report by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center of the University of Minnesota also tracked the increase in Medicaid patients who received preventative services, who have made up the large majority of the roughly half million Kentuckians who gained insurance through Kynect. During the fourth quarter of 2015, Medicaid covered 41,493 dental preventative services, 9,708 breast cancer screenings, 8,276 substances abuse treatment services and 5,589 colon cancer screenings — the large majority of which were accessed by those in the expanded Medicaid population.

Uncompensated care totals in urban and rural hospitals since 2009
Uncompensated care totals in urban and rural hospitals since 2009

Uncompensated care performed by both urban and rural hospitals for those without insurance also has plunged over the last two years, with the total dollar amount of such care now roughly one-fifth of what it was at the end of 2013.

This latest report was part of a 34-month study funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, with its CEO Susan Zepeda stating Wednesday that the tracking of such figures “helps to inform health policy decisions.”

Policy decisions regarding health care insurance and Medicaid are very much up in the air in Kentucky, as Gov. Matt Bevin is seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to switch from Kynect to the federal health care exchange for the purchase of private plans and to alter the expansion of Medicaid. Bevin has argued that Kynect is duplicative and a waste of money, and that too many “able-bodied” people are on Medicaid in Kentucky, making it financially unsustainable.

This week, Beshear sent an open letter to Bevin and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell calling for both to “lift the veil of secrecy” and bring transparency to Bevin’s proposal for a waiver to alter Kentucky’s Medicaid program so that the public and stakeholders can have input. He and other Democrats currently in the General Assembly fear Bevin’s proposal will significantly decrease access to healthcare for Kentuckians.

Such sentiments were shared by presumptive Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton on Tuesday during her visit to a Family Health Center clinic in Louisville, where she called Kentucky’s implementation of the ACA a national model and said “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Asked about Beshear’s open letter regarding Bevin’s Medicaid waiver, HHS spokesman Ben Wakana told IL that “Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion has led to one of the biggest reductions of uninsured people in America, and any changes to the program should maintain or build on the historic improvements Kentucky has seen in access to coverage, access to care, and financial security.”

The snapshot of the report by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky can be read below:

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky 4Q Report by insiderlouisville

Joe Sonka

Joe Sonka

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]