Federal mandates helped Kentucky prepare its health website, officials say

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comOctober 24, 2013 

Kynect health exchange kiosks are located at hospitals; this one is at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

  • By the numbers

    26,174

    Kentuckians enrolled in new health coverage under the Affordable Care Act

    21,342

    Kentuckians newly enrolled in Medicaid

    4,832

    Kentuckians newly enrolled in other programs through the state program

    For more information about Kynect, the website to sign up for health insurance, go to Kynect.Ky.Gov or call 1-855-498-6328

    Source: Office of Gov. Steve Beshear

Although technical issues have crippled the ability of people to sign up for health insurance through the federal website, HealthCare.gov, Kentucky officials say federal mandates for testing helped make the state's separate website a success.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services, which is in charge of the federal exchange, "laid out a very vigorous set of requirements" for individual states to follow, said Chris Clark, technology program manager for Kentucky's exchange, Kynect. Kentucky is one of 17 states that opted to create their own online health insurance marketplace and website instead of using the one created by HHS.

Kentucky began working on the web-based system of enrollment in October 2012, Clark said. By June, Kentucky was among the first states to submit required tests concerning its ability to link to the Federal Data Services Hub. The hub was created to provide a common connection to federal information relevant to the Affordable Care Act. That information comes through various federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Service Administration.

Other data tests followed, he said, with Kentucky required to submit proof that Kynect.ky.gov was operating smoothly.

Following those virtual tests, he said, federal officials spent three days in Kentucky in August physically overseeing the technical aspects of the program. One day, he said, was devoted to demonstrating how the website worked.

Kentucky did use CGI, the massive project's prime contractor. But, Clark said, CGI is an international operation and the divisions dealing with the federal exchange and state exchanges don't overlap.

There were glitches found during the testing of what Clark describes as "a wonderfully complex IT system."

For example, the early program sometimes stalled when computing household incomes. But, he said, state officials have also said the cabinet's technology staff had recent experience setting up other complex systems, such as a prescription-drug monitoring database known as KASPER.

Carrie Banahan, the executive director of the Kentucky's Health Benefit Exchange, said state officials also benefitted from asking parties outside of government to be involved in developing and testing the program. Additionally, Banahan said Kentucky benefits from a smart website design that allows people to browse options without creating a full financial profile.


By the numbers

26,174

Kentuckians enrolled in new health coverage under the Affordable Care Act

21,342

Kentuckians newly enrolled in Medicaid

4,832

Kentuckians newly enrolled in other programs through the state program

For more information about Kynect, the website to sign up for health insurance, go to Kynect.Ky.Gov or call 1-855-498-6328

Source: Office of Gov. Steve Beshear

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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