Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services last week declared the state's transition from Kynect to the federal health insurance exchange a success.
We don't doubt there are Democrats who will argue the point. But the cabinet finds good footing when it points out that 81,155 Kentuckians enrolled to buy coverage on the federal exchange this year, versus 82,681 who bought it through Kynect a year ago. When one factors in data showing enrollment in the Affordable Care Act plans was down nationally, the numbers suggest the transition had negligible impact.
So it is that former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's signature achievement died with not so much as a whimper. Beshear became a national celebrity in the wake of the disastrous launch of the federal Obamacare exchange. Unlike its federal counterpart, Kynect actually worked.
We suspect this was helped mightily by the fact that Kentucky's system dealt with a relatively small pool of applicants. The 80,000 or so Kentuckians who bought health insurance on Kynect represent less than two percent of the state's population. Even the 420,000 who signed up for Medicaid comprise a small number relative to what the federal exchange was dealing with.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin made dismantling Kynect one of his first orders of business when he succeeded Beshear. He said the system was redundant and unjustifiably costly to maintain.
He was right about that. Beshear spent more than $200 million in federal tax dollars to build Kynect. It cost upwards of $27 million a year to operate. That was a monumental waste, in our view. Joining the majority of states that participate in the federal exchange instead is a no-brainer.
We think that like many Democratic endeavors, the real goal of Beshear's Kynect project was rooted in the chance to create a new bureaucracy to run it. The Kynect program created 500 new state government jobs for people called "Kynectors." Of course legally these could not be patronage jobs. And in that same vein, the Tooth Fairy is real.
But the Kynectors -- now called "assistors" -- did not evaporate with the dismantling of Kynect. We don't begrudge that. There is a legitimate state function in providing some expert assistance to people trying to navigate the individual insurance market, particularly given the mess the ACA has made of it. Whether it takes 500 people to do it is something we question, but that's for Bevin and his advisors to analyze and resolve over time.
Beshear naturally was a vociferous critic of Bevin's action. But about the best argument Beshear could mount against doing away with Kynect was to say, "It's inconceivable to me, why â ¦ Kentucky would want to go backward and become the first state to decommission a successful exchange."
That is not an argument is our view. There is every reason to be the first when the exchange is unnecessary and costs a ridiculous amount of money to operate.
Bevin did well to make the health insurance exchange the feds' problem, along with the rest of the imploding ACA. Kynect won't be missed.
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