The health care industry in Kentucky continued to add jobs in 2015, according to newly revised data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy analyzed the data and found 10,500 more people work in the health care industry in January 2016 than in the same month two years prior. Jobs in health care were up nearly 5 percent over 2014, while the overall economy in Kentucky saw 3.1 percent job growth in that period.
Jason Bailey, executive director of KCEP, said employment in health care and social assistance sectors picked up after the implementation of the Medicaid expansion, which former Gov. Steve Beshear did under the Affordable Care Act.
“So many more people have health care coverage and are going to the doctor, and that’s very likely having a strong influence on the job growth that we’re seeing,” he said.
More than 500,000 Kentuckians have gotten health coverage via expanded Medicaid and the state’s insurance exchange, Kynect, since the program began. The rate of uninsured in Kentucky has dropped from 20.4 percent before Kynect to 7.5 percent today, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Bailey said job growth didn’t happen immediately after Medicaid expansion. Before the state began enrolling people in Medicaid expansion, health care jobs were tapering off. But by the fall of 2014, job growth in the state’s health care and social assistance sector began improving, resulting in a dramatic increase in 2015.
KCEP also found the ambulatory health care services and hospital employment sectors have added more than 2,300 jobs in the state over the last year.
“More people going to the doctor means there has to be more health care jobs to provide those services — more nurses, more doctors, etc.,” he said.
Bailey said Gov. Matt Bevin’s plans to modify the state’s Medicaid expansion could threaten job growth. He said the changes could make it more challenging for people to access care.
“If there are fewer people covered, then there are fewer people who are using health care services, and that could definitely translate into fewer jobs if that’s what ends up happening,” he said.
Bevin plans to move those getting insurance plans through Kynect onto the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov. Jon Kingsdale, a health care analyst who helped implement Massachusetts’ insurance exchange, told NPR that wouldn’t affect access to care.
“The federal exchange is a perfectly viable alternative,” Kingsdale said in December.
The governor has yet to unveil a plan for remaking Medicaid, although he has hinted that he plans something similar to the program in Indiana, where most beneficiaries pay into the system. Some 400,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid under the expansion.
Last month, the Bevin administration began transitioning Medicaid users off of Kynect and onto Benefind, a new application service.