Denton joins Westrom on smoke-free bill; Haynes defends fee to pay for health exchange

12/09/2013 05:05 PM

Republican Julie Denton, R-Louisville, pledged her help on Monday in getting a statewide smoking ban passed through the General Assembly in 2014.

Denton, the chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she has experienced the health effects of second-hand smoke. And she agreed with Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, that the effects of smoking are hurting the state’s bottom line as it drives up health care costs, including to the state administered Medicaid system.

Westrom has tried unsuccessfully for three years to pass a smoke-free law that bars smoking in restaurants, bars and most public places.

Here’s what Westrom and Denton told business leaders at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s legislative preview day in Lexington on Monday:

Denton, though, continued to raise questions about how Kentucky is going to pay for the health exchange.

She has criticized Gov. Steve Beshear using executive orders to approve the exchange and a 1 percent fee on insurance companies to pay for it.

Denton said the legislature in 2014 should approve a plan for paying for the Kentucky Health Exchange once federal grant money used to start it up runs out in January 2015.

But Haynes said Kentucky already assesses a 1/2 percent fee on insurance companies to pay for the Kentucky Access program, which has served as a health care pool for Kentuckians who can’t find coverage elsewhere. Haynes said the state had the authority to increase that fee to 1 percent to pay for the Kentucky Access pool.

That pool is effectively being replaced by the Kentucky Health Exchange.

And Haynes said the fee on insurance companies could have been as high as 3.5 percent if the federal government had come into Kentucky to run the exchange instead of the state setting up its own.

In addition, of the 72,000 Kentuckians who have signed up for either Medicaid or private health insurance through the exchange, Haynes said 41 percent are under 35 years old. Here’s why she said that is significant:

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