Saturday, January 23, 2016

Paducah Sun and New York Times cross editorial swords over Gov. Bevin's plan to abolish Kynect health-insurance exchange

Gov. Matt Bevin's decision to close down the Kynect health-insurance exchange drew editorial criticism from The New York Times but an endorsement from The Paducah Sun.

"His shortsighted and pointless show of defiance against the Obama administration’s health care reforms could harm thousands of people in Kentucky, who may fall between the cracks as the state shifts their coverage from its own exchange, known as Kynect, to the federally run exchange," the Times opined.

The editorial said the change could be hard on people who want to sign up for Medicaid, the expansion of which Bevin has said is unsustainable and should be scaled back.

"If someone tries to sign up for private insurance but is judged by the exchange to be poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, the application is forwarded to Medicaid, which enrolls the person. If someone tries to sign up for Medicaid but is deemed ineligible by that program, the application is forwarded to the exchange for enrollment," the editorial said. "With the switch from Kynect to, the transfer of electronic information from the exchange to Medicaid is likely to be cumbersome, at least initially. People rejected by the exchange will need to submit a new application to Medicaid; some may not realize their information was not automatically forwarded or could get annoyed by the process and end up uninsured. Mr. Bevin needs to put a very high priority on providing a smooth exchange of information and enough enrollment assistants to help people find the right coverage."

Jim Paxton, editor of The Paducah Sun, said in an editorial the day before that Bevin is right to abolish Kynect because "there is no reason Kentuckians should underwrite the expense of the operation when the federal government is willing and able to do the task. In announcing he would deliver on his promise, Bevin noted that the state's exchange is paid for by a 1 percent tax on all health insurance policies sold in the state, both on and off the exchange. Bevin said during the most recent enrollment period only 85,000 Kentuckians, or 2 percent of the state population, bought policies on Kynect. An administration spokesperson said that policies sold on Kynect generate something less than $4 million of the $27 million it takes to operate the exchange annually, such that the vast majority of people paying to support the exchange are people who do not use it. When Kentucky moves to the federal exchange, there will be a 3.5 percent tax on policies purchased there, but it will only apply to people buying policies on the federal exchange."

Paxton concluded that since Bevin ran on the issue and was elected, "so it should come as no surprise that he is following through now. The issue over Kynect has never been whether it is functional or well-run. The question is whether it is needed. Voters have concluded that it is not."

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