As the implementation of Obamacare was a bitterly partisan, painfully awkward process throughout much of the country, Kentucky was the outlier. Then-governor Steve Beshear went all-in on implementing Obamacare to its fullest, over warnings from Democrats and Republicans alike that doing so could mean political disaster. After all, Kentuckians didn’t exactly have the hots for Obama at the time. They still don’t.
However, today Kentucky’s state-run health insurance exchange, Kynect (a name chosen for its K and Y and lack of an O) is one of the most efficient and effective insurance exchanges in the country. Between Kynect or the Medicaid expansion — which Kentucky was an outlier in the South for having accepted so quickly — over 500,000 Kentuckians signed up for health insurance during the program’s first year. That led the state’s uninsured rate to fall from over 20 percent to roughly 9 percent.
Many of these newly-insured Kentuckians have no idea that their access to affordable health insurance was made possible by the government — by Obama. But as long as the upshot is more people with health insurance, neither Beshear nor Obama cared all that much.
Apparently newly-inaugurated governor Matt Bevin does care.
Bevin, in keeping with promises he made when he ran for office, is set to dismantle Kynect and move Kentuckians over to the federal exchange. In practice, this won’t affect Kentuckians who already bought insurance through Kynect — at least not this year. Health insurance experts seem to think that the switch won’t affect the benefits consumers in the state receive. However, it will mean that future Kentuckians will be signing up for health insurance through the federal exchange instead of through the state. As silly as this may be, in a deep-red state like Kentucky, that could affect enrollment rates.
And again, we’re talking about one of the most successful health insurance exchanges in the country. It is the opposite of broken. Bevin is shutting it down despite the fact that it has made life measurably better for tens of thousands of Kentuckians.
As TalkingPointsMemo notes, Bevin’s got more room to dismantle Obamacare in Kentucky if he wants to, but he may hold off. During his campaign for governor, he initially suggested that he would roll back every iota of the health insurance expansion in Kentucky — including the Medicaid expansion — but later softened his tone and focused more on the exchange. He may, however, work with the federal government to change the way the state expands Medicaid, opting for a voucher program a la Indiana.