Beshear, other governors on why health care reform is working in their states

November 19, 2013 

By Jay Inslee, Steve Beshear and Dannel P. Malloy

In our states — Washington, Kentucky and Connecticut — the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," is working. Tens of thousands of our residents have enrolled in affordable health care coverage. Many of them could not get insurance before the law was enacted.

People keep asking us why our states have been successful. Here's a hint: It's not about our websites.

Sure, having functioning websites for our health care exchanges makes the job of meeting the enormous demand much easier, but each of our state websites has had its share of technical glitches. As we have demonstrated, websites can continually be improved to meet consumers' needs.

The Affordable Care Act has been successful in our states because our political and community leaders grasped the importance of expanding health care coverage and have avoided the temptation to use health care reform as a political football.

In Washington state, the legislature authorized Medi caid expansion with overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in the House and Senate because legislators understood that it could help create more than 10,000 jobs, save more than $300 million for the state in the first 18 months, and, most important, provide several hundred thousand uninsured Washingtonians with coverage.

In Kentucky, two independent studies showed that the Bluegrass State couldn't afford not to expand Medicaid. Expansion offered huge savings in the state budget and is expected to create 17,000 jobs.

In Connecticut, more than 50 percent of enrollment in the state exchange is for private health insurance. The Connecticut exchange has a customer satisfaction level of 96.5 percent, according to a survey of users.

In our states, elected leaders have decided to put people, not politics, first.

President Obama announced an administrative change last week that would allow insurance companies to continue offering existing plans to those who want to keep them. It is up to state insurance commissioners to determine how and whether this option works for their states, and individual states will come to different conclusions.

What we all agree with completely, though, is the president's insistence that our country cannot go back to the dark days before health care reform, when people were regularly dropped from coverage and those with "bare bones" plans ended up in medical bankruptcy when serious illness struck, many times because their insurance didn't cover much of anything.

Thanks to health care reform, people are getting better coverage at a better price.

One example is Howard Stovall in Lexington. Since he opened his sign and graphics business in 1998, he has paid half the cost of health insurance for his eight employees. With the help of Stovall's longtime insurance agent and Kentucky's health exchange, Kynect, his employees are saving 5 percent to 40 percent each on new insurance plans with better benefits. Stovall can afford to provide additional employee benefits, including full disability coverage and part of the cost of vision and dental plans, while still saving the business 50 percent compared with the old plans.

In Connecticut, Anne Masterson was able to reduce her monthly premiums from $965 to $313 for similar coverage, including a $145 tax credit. Masterson is able to use her annual premium savings of $8,000 to pay bills or save for retirement.

These sorts of stories could be happening in every state if politicians would quit rooting for failure and directly undermining implementation of the Affordable Care Act — and, instead, put their constituents first.

We urge Congress to get out of the way and to support efforts to make health care reform work for everyone. We urge our fellow governors, most especially those in states that refused to expand Medicaid, to make health care reform work for their people too.

Jay Inslee, Steve Beshear and Dannel P. Malloy are, respectively, the governors of Washington, Kentucky and Connecticut. They are all Democrats.

THE WASHINGTON POST

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