FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear updated Kentuckians Wednesday on steps the state is taking to address the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
“COVID-19 has been tough. It has changed so much about our daily lives. It has upended our economy, it has required us to sacrifice. It has taken the lives of so many of our loved ones, and it has tested our mental and emotional health. It has also taught us critical lessons: that we are compassionate people, that our ability to survive and thrive depends on each other, and that we Kentuckians are some tough people,” the governor said. “It’s also taught us a critical and deadly lesson on the importance of health care. When we fail to provide our people coverage, we allow our population to suffer from diabetes, lung cancer and congestive heart failure. This pandemic shows us that the lack of good health care options makes us more vulnerable and less resilient.”
The governor also offered new information on efforts to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to poll workers ahead of next week’s primary elections and new testing sites as part of the state’s partnership with Kroger. The governor also made announcements about the Cabinet for Health and Family Services health care exchange.
As of 4 p.m. June 17, Beshear said there were at least 12,995 coronavirus cases in Kentucky, 170 of which were newly confirmed Wednesday.
“We don’t want 170 new cases, but when you look at Arizona, a state that is one-and-a-half times our population, I believe, they had over 2,000 new cases yesterday. There’s only about a 20,000 difference overall in how many tests have been out there,” Beshear said. “So Kentuckians are doing a good job. But we’ve got to remember, what we see around us says it can come back very, very quickly.”
Beshear reported six new deaths Wednesday, raising the total to 518 Kentuckians lost to the virus.
The deaths reported Wednesday include a 71-year-old man from Clay County; a 90-year-old woman from Fayette County; and four women, ages 45, 87, 93 and 95, from Jefferson County.
“Let’s make sure we continue to turn on those green lights and ring the bells every morning at 10 a.m.,” the governor said. “It’s something that’s brought us together as a people, but more important it’s something that’s been there for people at that tough time. It’s something small we can all do to lift someone up. It’s well worth it.”
At least 3,444 Kentuckians have recovered from the virus.
For additional information, including up-to-date lists of positive cases and deaths, as well as breakdowns of coronavirus infections by county, race and ethnicity, click here.
The governor also shared a story of a remarkable recovery, as reported by WLKY.
“Let’s share a good news story. The story of Marilyn Newton. After a 58 day stay at Baptist Hospital in Louisville, she can now say she officially beat COVID-19,” said Beshear. “She’s being transitioned to Kindred Healthcare for rehabilitation. Her daughter, Amber, said they were told she wasn’t going to make it. Amber and their family have a renewed sense of faith from their experience.”
Health Care Exchange
Beshear announced Wednesday his intention to move the commonwealth back to the successful Kynect state health care exchange.
“We have been paying more over the last four years to get less. So today, I’m announcing that I’ve submitted a declaration of intent letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to transition to a state-based exchange beginning Jan. 1, 2022,” the governor said.
In 2013, Kentucky implemented a state-based exchange, known as Kynect. About 500,000 newly eligible people were enrolled in Medicaid coverage and Qualified Health Plans, making Kynect one of the most successful exchanges in the nation.
However, former Gov. Matt Bevin dismantled Kynect in 2017, forcing people to use the federal exchange. Beshear pointed out that Kentuckians are paying a roughly 3% user fee for that exchange, totaling $9.8 million in 2018, based on the most recent information from CMS.
The governor said launching the state exchange will incur a one-time cost of $5 million for the system, with operating costs pegged at between $1 million and $2 million annually. He said that means the state system will save $2.8 million to $3.8 million the first year, and $7.8 million to $8.8 million annually thereafter.
“In the last four years, we moved backward in health care. The rate of uninsured and uninsured children grew,” Beshear said.
Beshear said a state-based exchange will provide benefits beyond avoiding the federal user fees. He said the new system would offer Kentuckians a reduction in premium costs; integrate with Medicaid, offering a single door to access coverage; allow greater flexibility and autonomy than the federal system; and keep control local, putting officials in position to determine the needs of Kentuckians.
“We have an opportunity to be better, to get healthier, to save money and ultimately to provide that basic human right that is health care,” the governor said. “It also allows us greater flexibility and autonomy than the federal exchange, where we can extend the annual open enrollment period and offer special open enrollment periods. It finally offers us local control. I believe we can do this much better than the federal government. We proved that many years ago, and as we go forward, this is just going to be one part of a larger set of announcements on health care that we anticipate we will be making in August.”