Politics

The Bevin administration says it has met the June 1 deadline of demonstrating that it’s made adequate progress in Kentucky’s transition from the state health insurance exchange Kynect, to the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.

Doug Hogan, communications director for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the state has “met milestone requirements ahead of schedule,” but refused to comment on details of what criteria the state has accomplished.

According to a March 15 letter sent to state officials by Kevin Counihan with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government has to “determine whether sufficient progress has been made to proceed with leveraging the federal platform” for the upcoming year.

An Obama administration official said the government is working with the state to maintain consumers’ access during open enrollment.

“As the state understands, ceasing Kynect creates a number of challenges, and while we are encouraged by the progress made to date, significant work remains,” the official said. “CMS will continue to monitor the transition and provide the state with technical assistance as it approaches additional important milestones over the next several months.”

Bevin campaigned on dismantling Kynect during last year’s gubernatorial race. After taking office, Bevin said he would dismantle the exchange by the end of 2016 and those currently insured through Kynect would be able to transfer to healthcare.gov.

Although Kentuckians can now sign up for health insurance through Kynect and the state’s health and welfare services portal, Benefind, starting Nov. 1 of this year, consumers will be redirected to the federal marketplace. If the federal marketplace determines that consumers are eligible for insurance through Medicaid, they will be transferred back to Benefind.

Launched in late February, the state has been working to fix technical glitches in Benefind, which early on incorrectly sent out letters to some Medicaid recipients saying their benefits had been canceled. The state then extended benefits to those who had been eligible for services the previous month.

The Benefind rollout also created a backlog of cases that needed to be reprocessed because of conflicting data that merged under the new umbrella system.

Officials from the Health Cabinet created a “war room” of 91 state employees to work through about 30,000 backlogged cases in two weeks.

Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, says even though the state has met the deadline, she’s concerned beneficiaries will be lost in the transition.

“If people go into Benefind and start an application and then it gets transferred to Healthcare.gov, right there you’ve created a delay,” she said.

Over 85,000 Kentuckians have gotten qualified health plans through Kynect. Beuregard says that the state will have an “ambitious timeline” to make sure all of those consumers get health coverage during the open enrollment window.

“Anyone with a qualified health plan come November 1st will have to be dis-enrolled and then re-enrolled,” Beuregard said.

More than 500,000 people have gotten health insurance through Kynect. Over 400,000 of those signed up for coverage under the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which Bevin is also working to scale back.

Earlier this month, former Gov. Steve Beshear criticized the Bevin administration and federal government for not being transparent about details regarding the health care overhauls.

This story has been updated with a comment from the Department of Health and Human Services, which initially did not respond to a request. 

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.