Kynect

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to reshape the state’s approach to the Affordable Care Act have led to a political battle of governors unprecedented in recent state history.

On Thursday, former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, launched a political nonprofit organization to advocate for key policies implemented by his administration, which ended in December. Those policies included an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a state health insurance exchange, called Kynect.

Both policies are being threatened by Bevin’s administration, which is seeking to add new stipulations to Medicaid enrollment and to dismantle Kynect, instead sending Kentuckians to the federal health care exchange.

Beshear’s new group is called Save Kentucky Healthcare, a 501c(4) organization.

“Save Kentucky Healthcare is committed to continuing Kentucky’s dramatic success in expanding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now, why? Because it’s working,” Beshear said during a news conference Thursday in Louisville.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says he is starting an advocacy group to oppose Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plans to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, and scale back its Medicaid expansion.

Beshear is scheduled to announce “Save Kentucky Healthcare” during events in Louisville and Lexington on Thursday. In a news release, Beshear said he is troubled by Bevin’s plans to roll back what he called Kentucky’s nation-leading progress in improving the health of its people.

Beshear left office in December. During his eight years in office, he expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program and created a state-operated health insurance exchange where eligible Kentuckians could purchase discounted private health insurance plans. He did so under the Affordable Care Act.

Bevin criticized both programs as too expensive. He says he will dismantle Kynect by the end of the year and is trying to replace the Medicaid expansion with a different program.

Federal officials say Kentucky could have to return more than $57 million in unused grant money because of Republican Governor Matt Bevin's decision to dismantle Kynect.

The federal government gave Kentucky a $289 million federal grant to plan and establish kynect, a health exchange where Kentuckians can purchase private insurance plans with the help of a federal subsidy. State officials have spent all of it except for $57.5 million.

A letter from Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt of the federal Department of Health and Human Services to Bevin last month says state officials cannot use that money to move the state to the federal exchange. The money would have to be returned.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said state officials would return any unused money.

WFPL News

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has notified the federal government that Kentucky will dismantle its state health insurance exchange, Kynect.

The move will direct Kentuckians seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to use the federal health insurance site, healthcare.gov.

More than 500,000 people have gotten health insurance through Kynect.

In a statement from the governor’s office, Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto called the program a “redundancy.”

“The transition will have no impact on Kentuckians’ ability to obtain or continue health care coverage for the 2016 plan year,” Ditto said.

Alix Mattingly

More than two-thirds of Kentucky residents don’t want the state to roll back its expanded Medicaid system, according to a poll released Friday.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll also shows that half of Kentucky residents hold unfavorable views of the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that allowed the state to expand Medicaid.

“Most of them would rather keep Medicaid as it is today than scale it back to cover fewer people,” said Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser.

The poll found 72 percent of Kentuckians don’t want to scale back Medicaid expansion to cover fewer people.

entucky’s Medicaid expansion — and its fate — are a closely watch component of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration. Bevin, a Republican who took office Tuesday, campaigned reforming the state’s adoption of the Affordable Care Act.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentucky Republicans view Tuesday's election results as a mandate to dismantle one of the country's most heralded health care programs in the name of fiscal responsibility.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear used an executive order to expand the eligibility requirements of Kentucky's Medicaid program, insuring an additional 400,000 people and reducing the state's uninsured rate from 20 percent in 2013 to 9 percent by the middle of this year.

But those 400,000 people were more than twice what state officials had originally projected. Combined with the existing Medicaid program, Kentucky taxpayers now pay for the health insurance of a quarter of the state's population. The state will begin paying for the expansion in 2017, and costs could surpass $300 million by 2020.

Bevin's lopsided victory underscores how politically divisive the law remains.

An analysis of health insurance data shows more than 16,000 Kentucky children obtained health insurance during the first year of the Affordable Care Act.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the State Health Access Data Assistance Center say the Kentucky's uninsured rate among children dropped 4.3 percent during the first year of the federal Affordable Care Act. Their analysis revealed more than 10 percent of the private insurance plans purchased on the state health exchange were for children.

Researchers say the increase is because the state health exchange offered discounted insurance plans to people who did not qualify for public insurance programs. And the increased marketing of the state health exchange prompted people who were already eligible for Medicaid to enroll.

Federal auditors say Kentucky officials had trouble making sure everyone purchasing discounted health insurance plans on Kynect met all of the federal requirements.

An audit from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General said Kentucky's health insurance exchange was generally effective in determining a person's eligibility. But officials did not always properly verify some applicants' identity or their eligibility for minimum essential coverage.

The findings do not mean state officials allowed ineligible people to purchase qualified health plans because the state had other methods of catching the problems.

Kentucky officials agreed with the auditor's findings and said they had fixed the problems. The system could have an influx of new shoppers as Kynect's largest insurer, the Kentucky Health Cooperative, announced last week it was going out of business.

Creative Commons

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado is looking into whether Kentucky can start selling its successful health insurance exchange program, Kynect, to other states.

Alvarado wants to offer the technology and expertise behind Kynect to other states for a fee. States currently have the option of creating their own insurance marketplace or using the federal government’s under the Affordable Care Act. More than 30 states currently rely on the federal exchange.

Alvarado, a Republican physician who represents Winchester, said profits from his plan could help pay for the future costs of expanded Medicaid in Kentucky, which are estimated at $1.1 billion over the next six years.

“It will provide our neighbors who want state exchanges a service that they want, and it would give our taxpayers a break from having to foot that bill in the future,” he said.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentucky has opened a special enrollment period through April 30th for the state-based health insurance exchange kynect, so Kentuckians can avoid possible tax penalties.  

 If you don't have coverage in 2015 you’ll pay the higher of these two amounts: two percent of your household income or 325 dollars per adult.

Governor Beshear says the percentage of uninsured Kentuckians dropped from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 9.8 percent last year. He says that moved Kentucky from 40th to 11th best in the country.  

For more information log on to kynect.ky.gov. 

Sunday at midnight is the deadline for Kentuckians to sign up through Kentucky’s health care exchange, in order to get coverage for 2015. The Governor’s office reports more than 150,000 people have signed up for health care coverage since the current enrollment period began November 15.

Those without a plan after February 15 could face a tax penalty when filing this year that could exceed the annual cost of insurance.

More than 521,000 Kentuckians signed up for coverage during kynect’s first enrollment period.

With another impending deadline for coverage, enrollment in Kentucky’s health insurance exchange is steadily growing, says Nicole Comeaux, deputy executive director for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

So far, 12,500 individuals have enrolled in qualified health plans and 25,700 individuals have newly enrolled in Medicaid coverage, Comeaux said during a wide-ranging conference call Wednesday with health care exchange directors from other states.

Kentucky State Government

The uninsured rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points since the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for Americans to have health insurance went into effect last year, according to a Gallup-Healthways Well Being analysis.

During the fourth quarter of 2014, the uninsured rate dropped to 12.9 percent. This is the lowest recorded rate since Galup-Healthways began tracking the measure daily in 2008.

A year ago the uninsured rate was 17.1 percent.

The survey found that the uninsured rate declined as more Americans signed up for health insurance through federal and state health insurance exchanges in the first and second quarters of 2014.

Commonwealth of Kentucky

Governing Magazine has named the executive director for Kentucky’s healthcare exchange, Carrie Banahan, as one of its nine “Public Officials of the Year” for 2014. 

Banahan oversaw the creation of kynect, which signed up 521,000 Kentuckians under the new healthcare law last year.  Banahan will be honored at a dinner in Washington, D.C. on December 4th.

Report Shows Kentucky Workers Still Struggling

Aug 29, 2014
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new report on the state of Kentucky workers suggests the state’s economy has a ways to go before it fully recovers from the 2008 recession.

But some relief has come as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

As we enter Labor Day Weekend in Kentucky, most workers will take a day off from a job whose wages have stagnated.

That’s one takeaway from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy’s annual report, “The State of Working Kentucky 2014.”

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