Lawmakers prescribe do-over for Beshear officials to return with answers on health exchanges

08/15/2012 07:01 PM

State legislators expressed their frustration to health and insurance officials in Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration who could offer few answers on Wednesday about the costs and future operations of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

Officials within the Kentucky Department of Insurance and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services testified before the interim joint committee on Health and Welfare in Louisville on Wednesday about the program. But they said they couldn’t answer many of the lawmakers specific questions about the exchanges, which Gov. Steve Beshear created by executive order in mid“July”:\ . The exchange which is an offshoot of the federal Affordable Care Act will be run out of the state’s Health and Family Services Cabinet and will be overseen by an advisory panel of 11 members.

With the lack of details on the exchange the committee tabled the discussion and decided to hold an emergency meeting in early September so that officials within the cabinet can have a better idea of what the exchange could cost the commonwealth.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, told Carrie Banahan, who was named executive director of the exchange, that a business plan should exist by now.

Beshear’s executive order said the state-operated exchange will match up Kentuckians without health insurance with coverage — bridging the gap for uninsured Kentuckians who don’t have health coverage through their employers but earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. It will be funded with $66.4 million in federal grants that Kentucky already received for the effort.

That nearly initial $66.4 million is meant to serve as start-up funds and pay for initial office space, computers and employees through 2014.

Starting January 2015, the exchange would have to be self sufficient or the state would be on the hook for the deficit. Bill Nold, of the Kentucky Department of Insurance, said it would be more expensive if the state left it up to the federal government to run the exchange.

The consensus from both parties was the administration needs to weigh in with more details before legislators can take any vote regarding the exchange. Democratic Sen. Dennis Parrett of Elizabethtown said he was among those who wanted to put off weighing in on the exchange.


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