Health insurance works best and is cheaper for all when more people buy in, especially when more healthy people participate. That’s not some left-wing dictum dreamed up by President Barack Obama. It’s a fundamental principle of the business.
It’s also why the state’s decision to cancel advertising for the Kynect insurance exchange — right in the middle of open enrollment — is bad policy in a state that desperately needs to control medical costs and improve the health of its people.
We can safely assume that sick or older people who are frequent consumers of medical care don’t need to be reminded to shop for better coverage before open enrollment ends Jan. 31.
Healthier and younger people do need the nudge from advertising and outreach that they now will not be getting.
We understand that Gov. Matt Bevin has said he plans to shut down Kynect, moving Kentuckians onto the national exchange, HealthCare.gov. (We still think Bevin will change his mind if he will only listen to knowledgeable Kentuckians about the advantages of having greater state control.)
In any case, Bevin can’t close Kynect for at least a year. In the meantime, he should want as many Kentuckians as possible to be insured — for their sake and for the sake of everyone else whose health-care costs rise to pay for the uninsured.
It’s not clear why the advertising contract with the Doe Anderson firm was ended. While Gov. Steve Beshear was still in office, the Finance and Administration Cabinet rejected his request to extend the contract beyond its Nov. 30 expiration, reports Deborah Yetter in The Courier-Journal.
The Bevin administration saw no reason to renew the contract, and on Dec. 18 the ad agency was told to cancel pending advertising.
Doe Anderson’s award-winning Kynect campaign, along with a web of Kynectors and insurance agents who help Kentuckians navigate health-care options, enabled Kentucky to achieve the greatest drop in uninsured residents of any state, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index — from 20.4 percent to 9 percent over two years.
Kynect is the portal for qualifying for subsidized health insurance, as well as for Medicaid and the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The Louisville advertising agency was awarded $5 million in federal funding; what’s left unspent will be returned to the federal government.
Perhaps Bevin’s people think that if they weaken the state’s insurance market by ending Kynect’s advertising, his desire to shut down the exchange will be validated. Or maybe they think that without Kynect’s outreach, fewer people will discover they’re eligible for Medicaid, the health-care entitlement that Bevin wants to limit.
Such a cynical approach would only hurt Kentuckians, though. As long as Kentucky is running Kynect, the Bevin administration should try to make it work as well as possible.