How Kentucky Got Lucky: The Success of kynect.gov
It is no secret that the federal HealthCare.gov has received less than rave reviews since its October 1st roll-out. The states who have relied on the federal government to run their marketplaces have encountered numerous problems, from glitches to process delays to complete inaccessibility. Kentucky (the only southern state which opted to run its own health insurance marketplace and expand Medicaid), however, has shone like a beacon in the turbulent exchange introduction period. It is quite surprising that Kentucky, consistently near the bottom in health rankings and with approximately 625,000 uninsured citizens, would be the model for anything health care-related. Here is how Kentucky is leading the nation with its exchange site:
1) Repeated testing
Carrie Banahan, kynect’s executive director, said testing was a crucial part of the design process. According to her, from January 2013 – March, the system was developed; from April – June, it was built; from July – September, it was tested. In contrast, HealthCare.gov underwent testing just two weeks before the launch. The testing allowed state officials to identify and fix problems before it was open to the masses.
Kynect’s interface design is not impressive, nor was it meant to be. Sometimes, state officials recognized, simplicity is a good thing. The clean design of the site makes navigation easier. Information is provided at a sixth-grade reading level, so that those with a lower education level can understand their options. The pared-down site also makes loading faster for those without broadband Internet access – something that is often missing in Kentucky’s rural areas.
3) Putting aside politics
Governor Beshear is a Democrat and a loyal proponent of the Affordable Care Act. Kentuckians, many deeply conservative and Obama opponents, have been skeptical of health care reform for a long time. The government shutdown and endless finger-pointing from lawmakers made the exchange more about politics than health care. But, weeks after the launch, Beshear made efforts to depolarize Kentucky’s exchange: “My message to Kentuckians is simply this, you don’t have to like the president; you don’t have to like me. Because this isn’t about him, and it’s not about me. It’s about you, your family and your children. So do yourself a favor. Find what you can get for yourself. You’re going to like what you find.”
Kynect.gov continues to impress on a national level. President Obama has vowed to fix the problems plaguing the federal exchange portal, but the bad press has already put a damper on its possible eventual success. It seems the real winners are the uninsured Kentuckians who are now signed up for health care, perhaps for the first time in their lives – getting lucky in Kentucky, indeed.