Herald-Leader Editorial

End ACA posturing, work to fix glitches

April 3, 2014 

Republicans used this legislative session to cast symbolic votes against the Affordable Care Act in hopes of helping themselves with voters this fall.

But the legislature's GOP caucus has done much less than it could have to disrupt the rollout of President Barack Obama's health care reforms in Kentucky.

A look at the latest numbers may explain why.

More than 370,000 Kentuckians — almost 9 percent of the state's population — have signed up for coverage during the health insurance exchange's first open enrollment, which began six months ago.

Nationally, despite the disastrous rollout and all the associated bad publicity, the goal of signing up 7 million people by April 1 was achieved.

These numbers reveal a huge need and demand for what the law offers.

An estimated 3 in 4 Kentuckians who signed up through kynect had been previously uninsured, according to a preliminary analysis.

And, yet, our own Sen. Mitch McConnell is still calling the law "a catastrophe for the country."

Go ahead and criticize the details, disruptions, effects on the already insured, costs, unintended consequences, whatever.

The reality is the law is bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of hardworking Kentuckians who have suffered and worried with illnesses that could be treated or prevented, if only they had insurance. How does that qualify as a "catastrophe" in the eyes of our senior senator?

In the 6th Congressional District, 58,824 people (20,760 of them in Lexington) have signed up for coverage. That's more than the population of Jessamine County and more than Bath, Fleming and Montgomery counties combined.

Yet, Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, wants to take away health coverage from that 8 percent of his constituents by repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with new limits on malpractice claims which he says will reduce health care costs.

In the legislature, Republican Caucus Chairman Dan Seum of Louisville says "Obamacare will be shown to be a failure." But 58,038 of Seum's constituents have health care through "Obamacare" and are hoping that it succeeds.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, made sure the state budget includes a meaningless prohibition on using state funds to pay for the Affordable Care Act's implementation — meaningless because federal funds are covering the costs during the upcoming biennium.

More than most, Stivers should be concentrating on making the reforms work because his constituents need them more than most. In the six counties that Stivers represents, 14,643 people — or 13.5 percent of the population — now have health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

Critics will point out that the majority of Kentucky's enrollees entered the expanded Medicaid program rather than buying private insurance.

It's hard for us to begrudge an individual making less than $15,856 a year free health care through Medicaid, especially since the Medicaid expansion is bringing broader benefits, including greater access to drug treatment.

Until now Kentucky limited Medicaid's drug treatment options, pretty much to pregnant women and mothers. As a requirement of the expansion, drug treatment is now a standard Medicaid benefit. That means more treatment centers will open and fewer Kentuckians will watch their loved ones overdose because there was no bed for them.

There's no disputing the need or the demand. Continuing to sign up Kentuckians and making health care reform work should be the goal.

370,829 Kentuckians enrolled in new health coverage

293,802 have qualified for Medicaid coverage

77,027 have purchased private insurance

50 percent of all kynect enrollees are younger than 35

33 percent of all private health plan enrollees are younger than 35

85,167 have been found eligible for a subsidy to purchase a qualified health plan, some have yet to select a plan

762,148 calls have been handled by the kynect contact center

Source: Gov. Steve Beshear

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