A Washington Post article recently told the story of a mother in Eastern Kentucky who showed up at a small clinic without health insurance and frantic over her 4-year-old daughter’s 103-degree fever and mysterious pain.
Stories about poor health and the hurdles in receiving health care have been common throughout Kentucky’s history. But today’s stories often end dramatically differently than those in the past. Thanks to the state’s wise embrace of the Affordable Care Act, the Washington Post reported on the ease the mother experienced in quickly receiving a WellCare card and a diagnosis and treatment for her daughter.
What must that mother, and thousands of Kentuckians like her, be thinking upon hearing the recent news that Gov. Matt Bevin has officially notified the federal government of his plan to cease Kynect, the online health insurance exchange that has made it so much easier for Kentuckians to get the care they need to be healthy?
If Kentucky dismantles Kynect, we’d destroy a Kentucky success story that has been hailed as a national model for its success at reducing the number of uninsured citizens. Consider the facts:
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▪ Kynect has been the access point for about 500,000 people to gain insurance. Ending Kynect will likely result in fewer people receiving coverage.
▪ Kentucky spent $283 million in federal grants to implement Kynect and design a system tailormade for Kentucky. Decommissioning Kentucky’s exchange will cost about $23 million in funds that must be paid entirely by the state.
▪ Kynect is a way for control of the exchange used by Kentuckians to remain in our state. Any oversight and ability to modify plans under the federal exchange could be lessened.
▪ Insurance companies that have not been active in Kentucky for some time have begun to enter the Kentucky market via Kynect.
▪ Participation in the federal exchange could be reduced because of the additional hassle involved in signing up, and the reduced visibility of the portal. This could end up costing Kentucky’s doctors, hospitals and providers more in uncompensated care.
▪ Polls indicate that twice as many Kentuckians (over half) want to keep Kynect instead of moving to the exchange.
Kentucky ranks at the bottom of too many measurements of citizen health, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The wise embrace of the Affordable Care Act and the development of Kynect has provided the best hope many of us have seen in our lifetimes of reducing Kentucky’s dismal health statistics. Likewise, expanding Medicaid eligibility criteria has dramatically improved the lives of people who now have the peace of mind of knowing that they aren’t one health crisis away from bankruptcy. We are concerned that the governor isn’t committed to a high-quality Medicaid system in Kentucky and instead seems to favor an Indiana model that includes co-pays and premiums.
We urge Gov. Bevin to listen closely to the Kentuckians whose lives have dramatically improved once they received convenient access to health care. The stakes are high: Each improvement we make toward a healthier Kentucky has ancillary benefits for our citizens’ quality of life, productivity, ability to learn and achieve economic success.
Just like the mother and daughter featured in The Washington Post story, there are people in every city and county throughout the state whose quality of life is better today because of the wise health policy decisions our state has made. For their sake, we should not veer off the course that promises to lead us to a healthier Kentucky.
The authors are Democrats serving in the Kentucky House. Reps. Jeffery Donahue, Mary Lou Marzian, Darryl T. Owens and Jim Wayne are from Louisville. Derrick Graham is from Frankfort. Joni Jenkins is from Shively. Rita Smart is from Richmond.