Ask anyone to name some states where the Affordable Care Act has been a success, and one of the places they are likely to mention is Kentucky. Thanks to the efforts of then Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, Kentucky became virtually the only “red” state to create a state insurance exchange, rather than letting the federal government handle the process. Beshear left office in January, and his Tea Party successor has promised ever since he began campaigning for the governor’s office that he would dismantle the state exchange, known as “Kynect,” and allow the federal government to take control. Former governor Beshear is doing all in his power to prevent that from happening.
Current governor Matt Bevin has made no secret of his distaste for the ACA. In fact, he hates Obamacare at least as much as Kentuckians love their Kynect. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that almost twice as many Kentuckians approve of Kynect as disapprove (42 percent approve, 28 percent disapprove, 29 percent undecided). But apparently that doesn’t matter to Bevin.
Bevin came into office with a plan to shut down the state exchange and roll back the expansion of Medicaid. But perhaps after looking at numbers indicating that 63 percent of Kentucky residents like the Medicaid expansion, Bevin has backed off a bit on that part of his plan. He now wants to implement a cost-sharing plan, similar to the one in Indiana. Under that plan, Medicaid enrollees would be charged premiums, like those on private insurance. But he still plans to shut down Kynect. And Steve Beshear plans on stopping him.
On February 11, Beshear kicked off his campaign to save Kynect. At a Louisville press conference, Beshear said,
Gov. Bevin is working to take health care away from people who needed it desperately and for so long didn’t have it… I’m not going to let that opportunity be taken away from them. Not without a fight.
Beshear has formed an organization called “Save Kentucky Healthcare,” which he says he will use to promote the programs that he championed. Thanks to those programs, health care access has become available to some 500,000 more Kentuckians than before the ACA. He explains the intended role of his organization this way:
Right now, every single Kentuckian, for the first time in history, has access to affordable health care. Our goal is that every single Kentuckian still has access to affordable health care.
Bevin fired back at Beshear, criticizing him for expanding Medicaid by executive order, saying,
This decision, arbitrarily, unilaterally to expand Medicaid, bypassing the legislature, disregards completely how to pay for it and leaving that for the next governor to clean up. I am that next governor and I’m attempting to clean it up.
Like most Tea Partiers, Bevin claims that his desire to turn Kynect over to the federal government and roll back Medicaid comes from an interest in saving money. But it’s more likely that he wants to dismantle the program because of its connection to President Obama. The entire concept of “local control” that is supposedly central to Republican thinking goes out the window when you’re talking about the ACA. Think Progress highlights the numbers that show that by dismantling Kynect, Bevin will cost the state money, not save it:
In reality, the ‘financially ill-advised’ program costs state taxpayers nothing. Kentucky received $253 million from the federal government for the development of Kynect, and private insurance companies pay for the system’s operation. If Bevin pulled Kynect, the feds would take back the $57.5 million in unused federal funds — and the entire move could cost the state anywhere from $23 million to $25 million, according to Beshear.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Beshear was a two term governor who enjoyed a 50 percent approval rating during his last year in office. Bevin came into office after beating popular state Attorney General Jack Conway in a race that caused some to raise the question of whether Republicans committed election fraud. Given his tenacity on the issue of Kynect in the past, the wise bet would be on Beshear.
Here is an excerpt from Steve Beshear’s news conference announcing “Save Kentucky Healthcare” via the Louisville Courier-Journal:
Featured image via Louisville Courier-Journal screen capture