Medicaid cuts would be dangerous for working Kentuckians and their families

May 26, 2023 5:30 am

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, speaks with reporters about the debt limit and government funding negotiations outside the Capitol on Thursday, May 25, 2023. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

Health care continues to be too expensive for far too many people in our commonwealth.  Medical bills are a leading cause of debt in Kentucky and many families are already making difficult sacrifices during these uncertain economic times. Making matters worse, there is a dangerous effort underway in Washington, D.C. that puts tens of millions of people at risk of losing their health insurance.

Instead of paying for the programs and resources Congress already agreed to provide to us, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy went to Wall Street to deliver the message that he would protect corporate interests at the expense of working families. And he’s doing just that by threatening to hold our economy hostage if cuts to vital programs like Medicaid aren’t made.

These cuts wouldn’t impact everyone equally. People with chronic health conditions, rural Kentuckians, and households with the lowest incomes have the most to lose. Children are also at risk of losing coverage if efforts to cut Medicaid succeed. Due to longstanding and discriminatory policies in our country, communities of color would be hit hardest, deepening inequity and limiting economic mobility for those that already face the largest barriers to care.

The proposed cuts would put health insurance coverage on the chopping block for 574,000 Kentuckians, putting their health and their livelihoods at risk. Only one state — Arkansas —  ever implemented a similar policy and the immediate effects were clear. Nearly one  in four enrolled adults lost health coverage before the requirements were vacated by a court. There continues to be no evidence the effort increased employment or achieved what policymakers said it would.

This shouldn’t be acceptable. There is no evidence that adding more bureaucratic hurdles for people to get affordable health care works. In fact, Medicaid is a program that helps keep people with low-wage jobs healthy enough to work. Threatening that care is counterproductive.

Expanded access to affordable health care, including Medicaid, is one of the most impactful ways to support our families, improve our workforce and keep our economy strong. It’s a popular program that currently provides health coverage to 1.7 million people in Kentucky, including more than 600,000 children, people with disabilities and low-income workers who aren’t offered affordable coverage in jobs like daycare, retail, food service, construction and other essential work that keeps our economy running.

Many Kentucky families are struggling right now. And with inflation and rising costs of groceries, it’s a particularly dangerous time to start restricting programs like SNAP and Medicaid that low-income Kentuckians rely on to care for their families. Having enough income to meet basic needs and put nutritious food on the table are just as essential to our health as access to care. Proposals that take away people’s health coverage, food or housing by adding bureaucratic reporting requirements only exacerbate poor health.

No one should have to exhaust their life savings or lose their home just because they got sick. These proposed cuts would lead to more long-term costs, more uninsured families and more debt. Taking away health care from Kentuckians cannot be a political bargaining chip. And we need our state and federal lawmakers to listen to their constituents to improve coverage and care, not take it away or make it more difficult to obtain.

To protect Kentucky from detrimental health impacts, President Biden and congressional leaders must reject any proposals that take away vital services and income support from the people who count on it to meet their basic needs. 

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Emily Beauregard
Emily Beauregard

Emily Beauregard became the executive director for Kentucky Voices for Health after years of active health coalition membership. Prior to joining Kentucky Voices for Health, Beauregard served as director of planning and communications at the Kentucky Primary Care Association, where she worked on practice improvement, community development, policy advocacy, and communications with members and policy-makers. She previously served for five years at the Family Health Centers in Louisville as the health planner and refugee health coordinator. Beauregard holds a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago.