Report: Thousands In Ky. Lost Dental, Vision Coverage After Medicaid Rollbacks

Jul 12, 2018

A new report shows thousands of people across the Commonwealth lost their dental and vision coverage as well as transportation assistance in the recent Medicaid expansion rollbacks issued by Governor Matt Bevin’s administration.

The data published by the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows the number of Kentuckians enrolled in Medicaid expansion by each county.

Most counties in west Kentucky, such as McCracken and Christian, had 10% of residents lose benefits. But some counties in the region, including Fulton and Union, had around 15% lose coverage.

KCEP Policy Analyst Dustin Pugel said cutting these benefits are not only harmful to people’s health but could be costly for the state in the long run.

“When California ended their dental benefits in the late 2000’s, the cost of ER visits for dental-related pain went up by 68% the next couple of years,” Pugel said.

Statewide, eastern Kentucky was the hardest hit. Most counties there saw around 20% of their population lose dental and vision coverage and transportation assistance - Including Owsley County which has one of the highest poverty rates in the state at 45%-- according to U.S. Census data.

Counties with higher population centers saw a larger number of individuals lose coverage, such as Jefferson County, where 76,003 people, or 9.9% of their population, lost coverage. 

Pugel said the rollback of transportation assistance may also have consequences. He said the left-leaning Urban Institute estimated more than 40,000 people in Kentucky who would lose transportation assistance didn’t have access to a car.

“Now some of those might be folks who live in an urban area where there’s a lot of public transportation and they might be able to get around,” Pugel said. “But in rural areas, there’s little to no public transportation and so it’s going to be much harder for people to get to doctor's appointments.”

Pugel said in his research, the types of trips people use transportation assistance benefits for include dialysis and substance use disorder treatments.

The cuts came after Bevin's plan to overhaul the state's Medicaid program was blocked by a federal judge early this month.