Panel OKs bill to give lawmakers say on Medicaid

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Associated Press

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 10:01 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Two bills approved by a Senate panel on Wednesday would require the approval of legislators for Kentucky to expand Medicaid or proceed the state's planned insurance marketplace under the federal health care overhaul.

The bills are expected to eventually die in the mostly Democratic House.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed the measures 7-3. The vote was along party lines in the majority Republican chamber. The proposals will now proceed to the Republican-controlled Senate for a full vote.

"The legislature doesn't need to interfere in that," House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told reporters.

Medicaid expansion and insurance exchanges are key components of the federal Affordable Care Act, which Republicans here have criticized as too costly. The law allows states to decide whether to expand Medicaid and whether to run their own exchange, partner with the federal government or have the federal government run the exchange itself.

Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, has already ordered the state to create an exchange, which will sell insurance to individuals and small businesses. Beshear has not decided if the state will expand Medicaid.

"I think on both of these issues we need to have discussion and input from providers, advocates and citizens in the community," committee chairwoman Julie Denton, R-Jefferson, said before the panel vote. "And it shouldn't fall to any one person. And this is in no way a slight to the governor. It wouldn't matter to me if we had God himself as governor. I think this is under the purview of the General Assembly."

Medicaid currently covers certain groups of low income people, such as pregnant women and people with disabilities, which totaled about 825,000 Kentuckians in fiscal year 2012, according to the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Under expansion, Medicaid would cover anyone who is younger than 65 years old and earns up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $15,400 for an individual.

States and the federal government share Medicaid's costs. Kentucky typically pays about 30 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For states that expand Medicaid, the federal government said it will pick up the full cost of the additional enrollees for the first three years and 90 percent of the cost after that.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Jefferson, voted no on both bills. She said after the hearing that Kentucky should expand Medicaid because the federal government will pay for it through 2016.

"At that point, we can opt out if we can't afford it," she said.

She also supports the creation of an exchange, saying it should be run by the state, not the federal government.

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Associated Press Writer Roger Alford contributed to this story.

The legislation is Senate Bill 39 and Senate Bill 40.

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