Kentucky's Public Option Health Care Here For Years

By: Ryan Dearbone Email
By: Ryan Dearbone Email

In 1994, Kentucky's legislature overhauled its health care in an effort to lower premiums and get more people insured.

It did this by adding in a public option called "Kentucky Access".

But the plan isn't as successful as originally hoped for.

"A lot of people ended up in Kentucky, their premiums went up and quite a few folks dropped their health insurance because the cost increase so greatly," says Auston McCay.

A Bowling Green insurance agent, McCay and others helped the state government come up with "Kentucky Access'" as a public option alternative.

However, the plan quickly fell into trouble.

"A big part of the money that's gone into Kentucky Access has gone back into state coffers," says McCay.

Over the past 15 years, the $220 million designated for the program has been steadily taken away by the state government to cover general items.

In all, McCay says $150 million has been taken out of Kentucky Access' budget.

The former state health insurance chairman doubts the Federal Government won't help but pull money out of a public option in times of need as well.

"We talk about how the insurance companies make profits but the state is actually profiting off this plan and so if this money had been left in there and reduced the public's cost, then the plan would have been very competitive and could have been well run," McCay notes.

The lack of people participating also has hurt its progress.

Out of 4.2 Kentuckians, only 4500 are signed up for "Access", that's less than 11% of the population.

McCay says, if passed, a Federally-run public option will face these similar problems.

"Kentucky's plan was a trial run for a national plan and when it kind of blew up then very little was said about it later," notes McCay.

In addition to Kentucky, a handful of states such as Tennessee and Massachusetts have also tried public options... all with similar results.


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