kynectFederal authorities have given Gov. Matt Bevin the go-ahead to dismantle the state exchange Kynect, but they worry that the transition to HealthCare.gov will disrupt Kentuckians’ health care coverage.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a letter on Tuesday that it would permit the transition from Kynect to the federal website on Nov. 1, the date on which people can again sign up for health insurance through the exchange.

“The Commonwealth has met the required transition milestones to date and demonstrated implementation of the system functionality necessary to operate kynect on the federal platform,” Andrew M. Slavitt, HHS acting administrator, wrote in a letter to Bevin.

Bevin, a Republican, had notified the department on Dec. 30 of his plans to dismantle the state website and transfer health care consumers to the federal exchange. The exchanges are a crucial part of the Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama, a Democrat. Kynect had been created under Bevin’s predecessor, Steve Beshear, also a Democrat.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told IL that it had no comment beyond information contained in the letter. Gov. Bevin’s office could not be reached Tuesday evening.

Slavitt wrote in his letter that during federal reviews in August and September, Kentucky “adequately displayed successful implementation of Account Transfer functionality.”

Gov. Matt Bevin
Gov. Matt Bevin

“However,” he wrote, “we remain concerned that kynect’s transition to the federal platform may disrupt the seamless system of coverage that kynect established. As a result, eligible people may face delays in or lack access to the coverage for which they are eligible, whether that is Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or a Marketplace Qualified Health Plan (QHP).”

Slavitt called Kynect a “highly successful” system, and said that because of the transition to the federal exchange, “many applicants will begin their application in one place and then experience a waiting period while their application is transferred and processed. They will then have to complete that application and enrollment on a different platform.”

“A major systems transition necessarily creates significant risks,” Slavitt wrote.

He also said that given the confusion among Kentucky consumers that the transition will cause, the state must effectively communicate with Kentuckians to make sure they have the information they need to enroll on the federal exchange.

Health insurers, including Louisville-based Humana, have been fleeing Kynect and other state exchanges because they say they are struggling with higher-than-expected costs incurred by customers who sign up for insurance through the exchanges. In nearly half the counties in Kentucky, residents next year will have only one option — Anthem — if they want health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky, said in an emailed statement that Kynect provides health care at lower costs, drove down the state’s uninsured rate, and that Gov. Bevin’s “misguided” decision to dismantle the system would cause confusion and jeopardize covered for tens of thousands of Kentuckians.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.