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Kentucky Governor Expands Medicaid to Include Dental, Vision and Hearing

Expansion of services “is easily affordable, which means we absolutely should do it,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks at the Center for African American Heritage during a bill signing event on April 9, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky.

On Wednesday, Kentucky’s Democratic governor announced a plan to expand the state’s Medicaid program to include dental, vision and hearing care for adults.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s plan to expand the services available under Medicaid in Kentucky will impact around 900,000 adults enrolled in the program. New benefits will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

Medicaid is a joint state- and federally-funded program that provides medical coverage to individuals and families with low incomes across the U.S. In Kentucky, a single adult is only eligible for the program if they earn less than $18,075 per year; for families of four, adults are eligible if the household income is below $36,908.

The changes will allow low-income adults in the state to access necessary care that was previously out of reach. (Children in the state are already eligible for dental, vision and hearing care if they receive Medicaid.)

Beshear assured residents that the changes won’t have a major effect on state spending, pointing out that Kentucky already has a healthy Medicaid budget and that federal funding will pay for most of the costs associated with expanding coverage.

Federal dollars will account for 90 percent of the expansion, which will cost an estimated $36 million annually. Kentucky will cover the remaining 10 percent of yearly costs, which amount to around $3.6 million per year — equivalent to approximately 8.5 percent of the state’s total government spending in fiscal year 2022.

“It will have no significant impact on Kentucky’s budget. It will require no changes to our budget in this next session,” Beshear said. “In other words, it is easily affordable, which means we absolutely should do it.”

Beshear touted the changes as being beneficial to workers across Kentucky.

“If you can’t see, it’s really hard to work,” Beshear said. “If you can’t hear the instructions that you’re getting, it’s really hard to work. If you have massive dental problems that are creating major pain or other complications, it’s really hard to work.”

Beshear’s announcement was praised by analysts in the state.

“This is a big deal!” tweeted Dustin Pugel of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “Kentucky Medicaid has long offered vision and dental, but they offered scant services — for example you could get an eye exam, but not glasses. And it has never offered hearing benefits. Good on [the Cabinet for Health and Family Services] for implementing these long-overdue benefits.”

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