WHAT WE THINK: Medicaid decision could provide care

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Nearly 3,000 more people will have access to health care in Shelby County, and we don't think that's a bad thing.

We understand that expansion of the Medicaid plan as part of the Affordable Care Act is seen as a political football, a topic to be kicked back and forth across a field of ideology with not a whole lot of regard for the players involved.

We also admit that we don’t have the sufficient grasp of either the process or economics to reinforce the decision last week by Gov. Steve Beshear to expand the rolls and open up the possibility that perhaps 300,000 more Kentuckians can have access to health insurance.

But, given the hopelessly unhealthy state of our state, we are hard pressed to understand that this could be a bad thing.

Whether this concept ultimately makes money for the state, as Gov. Beshear avows, or whether it will add to the burden of the state budget, as some have suggested, we won’t know for perhaps a decade.

Where we tend to focus our attention is here: Nearly 3,000 more of our neighbors in Shelby County will have access to health coverage that could extend their lives, cut down on health premiums for many of us and render a greater percentage of our populace as insured.

Does that sound like a bad thing to you?

We understand the politics and questions about whether Gov. Beshear should have made this decision – no one is questioning that he could make it – but we don’t grasp why politics always must play a role in doing the right thing by a greater number of citizens.

We also understand that at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, the center of our medical universe in this county, there are millions of dollars annually lost to patients who must be treated and who can’t pay for services. Hospitals don’t turn away people in dire conditions, so if those patients can’t pay, the world of medicine eventually just passes along the costs of treating them to the rest of us, through increased rates they charge our insurers, who ultimately pass those increases along in our annual premium increases.

You and I foot the bill for indigent patients, and if the roughly 2,800 citizens newly eligible for Medicaid could reduce that tab for JHS and other providers, ultimately that’s good for not only that individual and that medical facility but for all of us.

We know that President Obama and the Affordable Care Act are not popular in our county or our state. We all have our personal opinions. But we would ask this of you:
Set those precepts aside. Think of someone you know who can’t afford insurance because of any number of reasons. Maybe you know of someone who is getting sick. Maybe you know of a child at a local school who needs medical help and can’t afford it. Think about that person having a chance to get that treatment, even perhaps preventing severe illness.

Does that feel like a bad idea to you?

We live in a county in which almost weekly one group or another is gathering donations of various sorts to help the Food for Kids Backpack program, which feeds students who can’t afford lunch at school or even breakfast before they arrive there. No one questions that effort, it seems. It’s embraced as a wonderful thing.

What if we were to think of the Medicaid expansion plan as an opportunity – and we stress opportunity – to help many of those same kids get medical care?

Is feeding that child a noble idea but providing treatment for an illness or injury not?

We aren’t taking the side of either political party here.

We are taking the side of the kids and poor people who need health care.

That’s what Gov. Beshear’s decision to expand Medicaid is all about. That’s what we all should be about.

This is a way to help.

Let’s give it a shot.