“The day of reckoning has come," for kynect, health officials say

02/16/2016 11:10 PM

FRANKFORT – Kynect, the portal to Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, was described as too expensive and not sustainable by Kentucky Medicaid Commissioner Stephen Miller and Vicki Yates Brown Glisson, Secretary, Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Glisson told members of the House Budget Subcommittee on Human Resources on Tuesday that since the federal money used to support Kynect is beginning to go away, it is fast becoming cost prohibitive to keep what she calls “the website, or portal” intact.

“The day of reckoning has come, and we’re going to have to pay the bills,” Glisson said.

Glisson told legislators that Kynect has cost $330 million to-date.

Gov. Matt Bevin says that he will follow through with a campaign promise to shutdown kynect and switch Kentuckians to the federal exchange for the Fall 2016 enrollment period, saying that no one will lose health coverage.

Kentucky Medicaid Commissioner Stephen Miller told members of the committee that approximately 1.3 million Kentuckians, or roughly 30 percent of the population, including 400,000 children, are currently enrolled in Medicaid services, with approximately 90 percent of those in Managed Care.

State spending on Medicaid will be $3.7 million over the biennium, which is 20 percent higher than the past 2 years.

Projections show that $21.6 billion will be spent on Medicaid over the next two years, with Kentucky on the hook for $3.7 billion, according to officials at Tuesday’s meeting. The federal government will pay most of the balance.

It was also announced that effective February 29, Benefind, a new website to allow Kentuckians to apply for benefits, will replace the Kentucky Automated Management and Eligibility System (KAMES), and allow a single streamline application for Medicaid, long term care and waiver populations.

Some Democrats, like Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, expressed concerns with Bevin doing away with kynect saying that the portal made it easier for a vulnerable population to get health coverage.

He said that by doing away with the system, barriers will be created for people looking for coverage.

“Why are we taking something that is running so smoothly and trying to remake it with what I would consider some obvious barriers that in the long run may reduce the number of people enrolled to cut costs for the state?” Wayne asked.

“We don’t see this as a barrier,” Miller answered. “They will still have access to the Medicaid program through Benefind.”

Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, sided with cabinet officials, saying that a move to the federal exchange will save a good amount of money that could be used for programs to support Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Is this not a tremendous savings that would be yielded that we could turn around and spend on the most vulnerable and as far as any other issues as well that we’re concerned with?” Mayfield asked.

“Absolutely, not the least of which is to try to begin to tackle the huge deficit which we have in Medicaid,” Glisson answered. “Try to make that program sustainable.”

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@twcnews.com.

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