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Kentucky’s insurance exchange rolls out smoother than most thanks to good web design

By Travis Gettys
Friday, October 4, 2013 10:14 EDT
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Quality web design is being credited in part for the smooth rollout of Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, which earned praise in its first couple of days in operation.

The rollout of the Kentucky’s health insurance exchange was smoother than in many other states, where tech problems delayed or prevented many Americans from checking what their rates would be under the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act.

State officials and outside experts told the Wall Street Journal that Kentucky extensively tested its system before rolling it out and used simpler and more efficient web design than many states.

Although a rush of online applicants Tuesday morning temporarily overwhelmed the system, preventing many users from signing up for accounts, but they were still able to browse the site and examine their options without filing an application.

Technicians quickly brought two more servers online and added processing power to the state’s computers, which a technology program manager said added “50 percent more horsepower.”

The website was fully functional by 3 p.m. Tuesday, and more than 10,700 application had been initiated by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Nearly 7,000 had been completed and almost 3,000 individuals or families enrolled in new coverage by late Wednesday afternoon.

An expert on health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation said Kentucky’s site was the easiest one to use of those she examined this week, saying that it incorporated fewer “bells and whistles,” such as interactive features, and allowed consumers to browse plans without creating an account.

Another expert said state agencies, such as the Department for Medicaid Services and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, coordinated better in Kentucky than elsewhere.

The technology staff had also recently set up other complex systems, including a prescription-drug monitoring database, state officials said.

Kentucky’s governor said Sept. 27 in a widely shared New York Times opinion piece that his state had moved more quickly than most to implement Obamacare because its residents so badly needed access to affordable health care.

“Frankly, we can’t implement the Affordable Care Act fast enough,” wrote Gov. Steve Beshear, a conservative Democrat. “As for naysayers, I’m offended by their partisan gamesmanship, as they continue to pour time, money and energy into overturning or defunding the Affordable Care Act. It’s shameful that these critics haven’t invested that same level of energy into trying to improve the health of our citizens.”

Beshear noted the law had withstood a Supreme Court challenge and urged critics to “get over it,” saying ACA would extend coverage to nearly all Kentuckians, create thousands of new jobs and inject millions into the state’s economy and budget.

But Kentucky’s Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, fired back Thursday with a jointly signed column in the Kentucky Enquirer, accusing Beshear of trying to win friends in Manhattan.

The senators complained that the law would impose dozens of new taxes and increase health care costs for businesses and individuals, even if it benefitted Kentucky’s economy.

“We think Kentuckians deserve the kind of bipartisan, common-sense health reform that will actually lower costs and improve the quality of care; in other words, not Obamacare,” the pair wrote. “But to get there, we need to repeal this partisan mess of a law so we can start over with real input from the American people and members of both parties.”

The opinion column did not cite any suggestions by the senators for what a bipartisan health care reform law might look like, but asked Beshear if he had any ideas.

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