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Commentary: House Bill 7 would risk thousands of Kyians losing health care coverage, food assistance

By Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s mission is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity.

We’re focused on health care access, tobacco-use reduction, obesity and diabetes prevention, and children’s health – with an emphasis on adverse childhood experiences or ACEs – and reducing disparities in all those areas.

We believe having access to food, especially healthy food, is vital for the health of Kentuckians. Access to healthy food is an upstream way to combat chronic health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, among others.

We support policies that are meant to prevent and/or mitigate outcomes that can be detrimental to children’s health. Families that face stressors such as poverty, food and housing insecurity, and lack of access to medical care and health coverage are at greater risk of increased rates of violence, mental health issues and suicide, substance use, and/or incarceration of family members. These traumatic events – called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness and substance use problems in adulthood. They can also negatively impact education, job opportunities, and earning potential.

We’ve made progress on these issues in our Commonwealth. We’re also beginning to see our businesses and communities recover from the losses of the pandemic. Now is NOT the time to go backward and remove millions of dollars from local economies and billions from the state overall. That’s what House Bill 7 stands to do.

HB7 would institute several measures that would make it harder for Kentuckians to get and keep food assistance and health care coverage largely by creating added paperwork requirements. Such requirements also place a significant burden on administrators within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services who would be responsible for processing and validating the paperwork.

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy estimates nearly 200,000 people could lose Medicaid coverage, and tens of thousands of Kentuckians could lose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits should HB7 pass.

While Medicaid and SNAP provide vital assistance to Kentuckians, these programs do not put cash into individuals’ pockets. But, they do put money in local economies – money that goes to grocers, farmers markets, hospitals, health care providers, nursing homes, hospitals and pharmacies, among others. Every dollar spent on SNAP benefits generates $1.61 in economic activity, according to calculations by Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Medicaid also acts as an economic stimulus in communities, adding billions of dollars in economic activity and supporting job creation. Further economic ripples from Medicaid spending include purchases made by health care workers and taxes on their wages, as well as health care facilities’ contracts with local vendors, such as janitorial and restaurant services. And, it’s a bargain to states: states pay only $0.10 per Medicaid dollar spent, while Federal dollars cover $0.90 of each $1.

Community Catalysts says cutting Medicaid spending forfeits federal funds, short-circuits the economic engine of Medicaid, and significantly worsens a state’s economic situation.

If 200,000 Kentuckians lose Medicaid coverage because of HB7, fewer people will be able to go to the doctor for care. That could result in lost jobs at provider offices and more patients seeking uncompensated care in high-cost emergency departments.

For the reasons outlined above, the Foundation opposes HB7 as it is currently written and we urge legislators to oppose any new policies that would prevent Kentuckians from accessing care and food assistance.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is a nonpartisan organization formed to address the health needs of all Kentuckians.

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