Kentucky governor seeks to revive health insurance exchange

Bruce Schreiner
Associated Press

Frankfort, Ky. – Reversing another of his Republican predecessor’s decisions on health care, Kentucky’s Democratic governor announced plans to bring back the state’s health insurance exchange begun by his father as an outgrowth of the Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday that he sent a letter to federal officials notifying them of his plans to revive the state-based exchange at the start of 2022.

His father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, started the online exchange in the aftermath of the landmark health care reforms championed by then-President Barack Obama. Kentucky’s program was dismantled by the Republican who followed the elder Beshear as governor.

In this Sunday, April 5, 2020, photo, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks about the novel coronavirus during a media conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky.

The state’s exchange, dubbed kynect, allowed Kentuckians to purchase commercial health plans or sign up for Medicaid – a joint federal and state health care program for poor and disabled people.

Steve Beshear’s successor, GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, abolished the state exchange, fulfilling a campaign promise from his election in 2015. Bevin said it was too costly and that Kentuckians could use the federal website to buy health insurance.

Andy Beshear unseated Bevin in last year’s election, and on Wednesday the new governor took the step to revive the state exchange as part of his efforts to expand health insurance coverage.

“We have an opportunity to be better, to get healthier, to save money and ultimately to provide that basic human right that is health care,” Beshear said during his daily coronavirus briefing.

The state can do a better job of running the exchange, he said, adding that doing so would lower health insurance premiums for many Kentuckians. They now pay a 3% surcharge on insurance plans obtained through the federal site, amounting to $9.8 million a year, he said.

Early in his term, Andy Beshear halted Bevin’s efforts to impose work requirements as a condition for some able-bodied adults to receive Medicaid health coverage.