Pulling the plug on the nonprofit insurer Kentucky Health Cooperative might prove over time to have been a short-sighted decision by the federal government.
But the co-op's demise won't make much difference to Kentuckians during the Kynect open enrollment period beginning Nov. 1 and lasting through January.
Seven insurance companies will be competing for their business — the most in many years. At least two companies will be competing in all 120 counties.
Also, the co-op, launched in 2014 with the health insurance exchange, was going to raise its rates dramatically. Many of its 51,000 customers would have switched insurers anyway because of the higher costs.
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What's paramount now is that the co-op make sure that all its obligations are paid and its customers are served until their new coverage begins.
Kentucky's nonprofit health insurance cooperative and those in other states were the "public option" created by the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's sweeping health care reform law.
On Friday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell crowed that the co-op's exit from the marketplace is the "latest in a string of broken promises with real consequences for the people of Kentucky who may now be losing the health insurance they had and liked twice within the past three years because of Obamacare's failures."
In reality, the co-op served its purpose well.
In 2014, Kentuckians shopping on Kynect could choose among just two private companies and the co-op. The co-op became the insurer of choice for sick Kentuckians who had been rejected in the past by insurers because of their pre-existing medical conditions.
The co-op, which attracted about 75 percent of the non-Medicaid customers on Kynect, had high costs because of Kentucky's huge pent-up demand for health care. Also, the co-op undercharged for its policies, although the impulse to keep costs low was understandable.
The federal government, which paid the start-up costs for the co-ops, decided to back off its support, which forced the Kentucky co-op to announce last week that it no longer would be selling policies.
The co-op had whittled its losses from $50 million to $4 million and, with time and better management, might have succeeded. The loss of the nonprofit health insurance option could take the pressure off investor-owned for-profit companies to hold down their rates in the future.
But for now, the co-op's short history is part of an amazing success story.
The number of uninsured Kentuckians dropped from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 8.5 percent in 2014, according to census data released last month. That's the biggest drop in the rate of uninsured for any state. Meanwhile, Kentucky's health insurance market for individuals and small businesses is its most robust in years.