The open-enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act has gone better in some areas than others. The state that’s leading the way, oddly enough, is Kentucky. Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has committed himself to leading on this issue, and the follow-through has produced impressive results.
Abby Goodnough has a fascinating report documenting the extent to which Kentucky has been “a model for the national enrollment effort.”
The state is far ahead of most of the nation in signing up people: As of Nov. 1, more than 27,854 Kentuckians had enrolled in Medicaid under the law’s expansion of that program, and 4,631 had signed up for private plans through the state-run exchange, known as Kynect. The state says it is enrolling 1,000 people a day.In contrast to the federally run exchange with all its problems, Kynect has had relatively few – for several reasons, Kentucky officials said. The primary contractor, Deloitte, worked closely with the state agency that runs health programs, ensuring guidance and oversight. Unlike the federal government, the state tested its online exchange early and often, so problems were addressed before the website went live. And people can check whether they qualify for Medicaid or subsidies without creating an account, a requirement that caused huge bottlenecks on the federal exchange.
Obviously, Beshear and his team deserve a lot of credit for creating a successful model. As Jason Cherkis reports today, Kynect is proving to be so popular that the good news is spreading by way of word of mouth.
Let’s also not forget that Kentucky’s success offers a glimpse of what’s possible elsewhere once these initial hurdles are cleared. For that matter, for those living in Republican-dominated states, wondering why “Obamacare” isn’t working as well as they’d like, it’s not unreasonable to ask state policymakers why they aren’t working as effectively as policymakers in the Bluegrass State.
Given all of this, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) take was of particular interest, since it’s his Kentucky that’s faring so well. Any home-state pride from the Republican who hates the law that’s working well for his constituents? Not really.
“Well, 85 percent of the people who’ve signed up in Kentucky have signed up for Medicaid. That’s free health care. If you want to give out free health care you’re going to have a lot of interest. Just like free anything else. There’ve also been, if you look at the statistics today, I believe I’m correct, about 270,000 cancellations of policies that people already had. So I know there’s been a great effort on the part of the administration and the governor of Kentucky to paint a pretty picture. The rollout is quite mixed – quite mixed – and largely people signing up for Medicaid. Free health care.”
It’s not altogether clear what McConnell finds disappointing. Yes, lots of Kentuckians have signed up for coverage through the Medicaid system. Why is that bad? He didn’t say. Why does McConnell prefer a policy in which those folks remain uninsured? He didn’t say that, either.
Let’s make this plain: Kentucky is doing a great job expanding coverage for its residents, taking full advantage of what the Affordable Care Act has to offer. Instead of celebrating new benefits for his constituents, McConnell sees a “quite mixed” picture. That’s a real shame.