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Pandemic Medicaid is set to expire. Here's how Kentucky plans to handle the change.

Joe Biden
Patrick Semansky/AP
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about his administration's plans to lower prescription drug costs and protect Social Security and Medicare, Nov. 5, 2022, in Joliet, Ill. Millions of people who enrolled in Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic could start to lose their insurance plans by April 1 if Congress passes the $1.7 trillion spending package leaders unveiled Tuesday. The legislation will sunset a requirement of the COVID-19 public health emergency that the Biden administration has been under mounting pressure to end. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

With the national pandemic state of emergency coming to an end, Kentucky officials are now working to wind down the temporary streamlined Medicaid program implemented to get people insured faster.

As governments scrambled to response to COVID-19 earlier in the outbreak, a fast signup option was created for Medicaid to get people covered and speed access to vaccinations and treatments. But that program is soon to be phased out.

"Now, that pandemic Medicaid is going to unwind. People cannot stay on it. And we're talking about 240,000 Kentuckians — we believe, that is a rough number — who signed up for Medicaid during the pandemic."
Gov. Andy Beshear

It’s a shift critics worry will put millions of low-income Americans at risk of losing coverage, potentially ratcheting up their medical expenses.

In an effort to soften that landing in Kentucky, Beshear said – between March and June – those affected will likely fall into one of three categories.

First, some will qualify for regular Medicaid but need to fill out more extensive applications. Beshear said there is a possibility the state may be able to automate that process, but that’s not yet clear. Second, others may qualify for Medicare or have aged into the program since the pandemic started. Lastly, anyone without those options will be eligible for a plan on the state’s health insurance exchange, and in Beshear’s words, “very likely qualify for significant subsidies.”

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.