Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday outlined his budget plan to make critical investments to expand health care access and support services for Kentuckians, including fully funding the Medicaid program and addressing the state’s nursing shortage.
The budget announcements follow the governor’s relaunch of kynect, Kentucky’s state-based health insurance marketplace, which makes common medical visits less costly.
Fully Funding Medicaid
Beshear’s budget fully funds the Medicaid program, on which one in three Kentuckians rely, including more than 660,000 Kentucky children. In addition, the budget provides funding for 500 additional slots in the Michelle P. Waiver program and 100 additional slots for the Supports for Community Living waiver program.
“Families across the commonwealth depend on Medicaid. It’s simply the right thing to do to fund this program and expand the services offered through it,” Beshear said.
Addressing Kentucky’s Nursing Shortage
Another priority in the budget is to address the critical nursing shortage in Kentucky, which led the Beshear to declare a State of Emergency in December 2021 followed by an Executive Order to help boost enrollment in nursing training programs.
To help recruit and retain nurses, the governor is providing $6 million each year to increase the number of scholarships awarded to potential nurses. Current scholarships are financed by a portion of nursing licensing fees, which only supports around 150 students. The Governor’s budget doubles the maximum award from $1,500 per semester to $3,000 a semester.
Another burden many nursing students face are student loans; a hurdle which the budget addresses through a student loan forgiveness program that would begin in May 2022. The budget would provide $5 million each year for 5 years to provide student loan forgiveness up to $3,000 annually for each year a nurse or nursing faculty member is employed in their position in Kentucky.
The Governor’s budget also directs $2 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State Fiscal Recovery Funds to finance a marketing and outreach program for the nursing profession to enhance recruitment.
Also included in the Governor’s budget is funding to extend the $29 per-diem reimbursement rate increase for nursing homes, which expired on Dec. 31, 2021.
“My budget recommends $150 million annually to nursing homes to maintain the $29 per-diem reimbursement rate increase through June of 2024,”Beshear said.
Local Health Department Transformation
In his budget, the governor provides more than $36 million through fiscal year 2024 to transform Kentucky’s local health departments, with funds to be allocated to the 60 departments serving communities across the commonwealth. The funding will be used to help with staffing and workforce, as well as operations to deliver the programs and services Kentuckians rely on.
Investing in Mental Health Services
The budget targets two strategies to help provide support and care for those in need.
First, Beshear dedicated funding to implement the new 988 crisis support line: a three-digit number set to replace the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in July 2024. The budget dedicates $3.4 million in Fiscal Year 2023 and $9.9 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to phase in 170 additional staff to Kentucky’s Community Mental Health Centers to offer support 24-hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
The second budget allocation toward mental health is funding to expand Tim’s Law to two other psychiatric hospitals in the state – Eastern State Hospital and the Appalachian Regional Hospital. State funding of $500,000 and $1 million during the two fiscal years will fund the expansion.
Kentucky Pediatric Research Trust Fund
“Childhood cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease in children,” Beshear said.
To help fuel research to find new treatments for better outcomes among Kentucky’s youth, the governor is adding $1.25 million each year from his budget to the Kentucky Pediatric Research Trust Fund’s base funding of $2.5 million. This organization serves as an umbrella to organize all pediatric cancer research work across the commonwealth.
Protecting Children and Families
To further carry out the Governor’s commitment to addressing domestic violence and child abuse, the governor included a 34% increase in funding to Domestic Violence Centers, Rape Crisis Centers and Child Advocacy Centers.
In addition, the budget includes additional funding of $19.6 million each year to sustain and expand prevention services that work with families to mitigate issues when a child is at immediate risk of removal.
The Governor also included a 17% rate increase for residential and therapeutic foster care providers. These are organizations that serve children who require the highest quality care and aren’t yet able to be placed in a family-based setting.
Child Care Assistance
The budget includes a $2 per child per day increase in the child care assistance program reimbursement rate. This one-time funding would use ARPA funds to continue the temporary increase through June 30, 2024.
New Office of Dementia Services
The governor also acknowledged the need for more support for the 73,000 Kentuckians with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, as well as for their caregivers. To help meet this need, the Governor’s budget includes funding to help staff the new Office of Dementia Services established in 2021.
The budget also expands funding for the Kentucky Family Caregiver Program by $1 million in each fiscal year and includes additional dollars to expand the Hart-Supported Living program by $2 million in each fiscal year.
Combating Senior Hunger
To combat hunger in seniors during the pandemic, Beshear used pandemic funds to eliminate a waitlist for about 7,000 for meals. To ensure those individuals continue to receive food and support, the Governor is providing $36.2 million over the next two and a half years for an additional 49,000 meals per week, which fully meets the current needs of Kentucky’s citizens.
Caring for Kentucky’s Veterans
Beshear is providing $200,000 each year for the Homeless Veterans program. In addition, the budget includes $700,000 annually to increase the number of veterans benefit field representatives and nearly $300,000 each year to expand outreach.
$2 Billion Investment in Pre-K–12 Education
Monday, Beshear outlined his budget plan to make a record $2 billion additional investment in pre-K–12 education, the single largest investment in this sector in state history.