Kynect, Medicaid expansion bills fail to make it out of Senate committee

04/11/2016 06:15 PM

FRANKFORT – Senate Republicans plans to bring two bills to save kynect and the state Medicaid expansion to the Senate floor for a discussion and vote failed when only five Republicans were present to vote during the Senate Health and Welfare Committee meeting on Monday who took up both House Bill 5, and House Bill 6, both sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville.

The five Republicans who were present at the time a vote was called, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, Sen. Jimmy Higdon, Lebanon, Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, and Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville voted yes, while the three Democrats, Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, and Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, abstained, leaving both bills one vote short of what was needed to pass out of committee.

Last month, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, vowed that if the bills made it out of the House chamber, he would allow them to go through committee and come to the full Senate for a floor vote — where the Senate GOP was poised to air grievances with the healthcare system.

Sen. Harper Angel said that while she supports kynect and expanded Medicaid, she would not take part in a process which was designed to, what she says, disparage the healthcare exchange.

“I though the whole thing was just an exercise in futility, and I did not want to be part of it,” Harper Angel said speaking of the meeting on Monday.

Sen. Julian Carroll felt that the meeting was a forum for Republicans to defend Gov. Matt Bevin’s order to move Kentuckians from the kynect system to the state’s new healthcare exchange, Benefind.

“The Republicans set this up today, and every single witness they called, was a witness to defend Gov. Bevin’s actions,” Carroll said. “They simply wanted to grandstand it here for the benefit of the press, and then grandstand it again on the floor for the benefit of the press.”

The close to three-hour meeting, consisted of backers of kynect and expanded Medicaid giving reasons why the states healthcare exchange, enacted by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear by executive order, should be kept, as well as members of Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration, who presented reasons why the state healthcare exchange needed to scrapped.

Secretary for Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Vicki Yates Brown Glisson said that kynect was simply not financially sustainable.

“What you had was a period of time that when kynect was being built, we were able to draw down 90-10 match finds, 90 percent federal, 10 percent state,” Glisson said. “Now that we have kynect, it has now been reduced to a 75-25 match, so there is a significant increase in cost in being able to maintain and operate kynect.

“We have at least 36 states that have accessed the federal platform. If the federal platform was not sufficient, we would not have that kind of migration to the federal platform.”

Glisson also pointed out that a move to the federal exchange would save the commonwealth $15 million to $35 million per year.

Beshear reacted to the vote in a statement from non-profit “Save Kentucky Healthcare” saying it is “unclear to me why Senate Republicans in Kentucky are doing everything they can to dismantle Kynect, a successful, homegrown healthcare program that has helped so many gain access to health insurance since it’s launch in 2013.”

“To take away this program for purely political reasons is irresponsible and damaging, and unfair to those who rely on it for the health and well being of their families,” Beshear said in the statement. “By not passing House Bills 5 and 6, the Senate Republicans in Kentucky have taken the next steps in what has already been a dangerous path to fulfill a political ideology instead of protecting the interests of those who have elected them to office.”

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at donald.weber@charter.com.

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