Kynect's birthday plenty to celebrate

If in fact you can't call it bragging if it's true, then Gov. Steve Beshear gets a pass for touting the success of Kynect, the Kentucky health-care exchange established under the Affordable Care Act, which launched Oct. 1, 2013.

Over a half million Kentuckians, 75 percent of whom said they had no previous health insurance, have affordable coverage through Kynect. Not surprisingly, employment is up in the health-care sector and, with so many new people insured, so are reimbursements to hospitals and other health-are suppliers. More health insurance companies are doing business in Kentucky now, increasing competition, and the number of private insurance agents certified to sell through Kynect has doubled.

The bottom line, the thing to really brag about, is that more Kentuckians are getting the kind of preventive and maintenance care that will help them stay healthy. As the accompanying chart shows, more people in our state are getting cancer screenings, flu shots, check-ups and dental care. This means they are more likely to stay healthy and that serious illnesses, caught early, will cost less to treat.

With a year of experience under its belt, the Beshear administration has hired consultants to analyze how Kynect has done — in terms of costs and results — compared to projections and to provide estimates for future costs when state government will pick up some of the cost of the Medicaid expansion now paid by the federal treasury.

There have also been tweaks to make Kynect more accessible as the new open enrollment period begins Saturday. They include website improvements, a mobile app, increasing the number of representatives at call centers to answer questions and the first physical store. That store opens today in Fayette Mall, with insurance agents, Kynect representatives and information kiosks to answer questions and help people sign up.

It's hard to reconcile all this with the disaster scenarios being painted in October of last year and, again, throughout this campaign season. U.S. Rep. Andy Barr asserted that many Kentuckians "want protection from Obamacare," the Republicans' derisive name for the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged to rip it out, "root and branch."

Barr and McConnell achieved their ends, re-election, but Beshear won the real prize of helping Kentuckians.