A state-run web portal that signed up hundreds of thousands of people for health coverage before its dismantling was relaunched Monday by Kentucky’s governor, who gave it an expanded mission to guide people seeking help from an array of assistance programs.Retaining its original kynect name, the portal will allow Kentuckians to request health coverage and other support, including job training; foster care and assistance for food; child care, elder care and substance abuse recovery. Military veterans can seek assistance on the site.Gov. Andy Beshear described the expanded kynect program as “the way that we’re going to wrap our arms around Kentuckians and let them know that we’re here to help.”In a state with high rates of cancer and other diseases, its revival aims to realize an ambitious goal for the Democratic governor, who calls health insurance a “basic human right.””Now is the time that we push to make sure that every Kentuckian is enrolled for some form of health care coverage,” Beshear said.The need is more pronounced as the state fights the global COVID-19 pandemic, he said, adding: “Like nothing before in any of our lifetimes, the coronavirus has laid bare what happens when people don’t have health care coverage.”His father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, launched kynect in 2013 as a state-run health insurance exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act, but it was dismantled by Matt Bevin, the Republican governor who followed. Andy Beshear unseated Bevin in last year’s election.With its comeback, kynect is scheduled to begin enrollment in 2021 for its January 2022 return as a state-based exchange where people can shop for health coverage. In the meantime, it will provide access to the national health benefit exchange. Switching back to a state-run exchange is expected to save Kentuckians about $15 million a year, Andy Beshear said.Kynect will immediately begin helping Kentuckians sign up for a range of other benefits.Andy Beshear on Monday called it a “newer, better, more comprehensive kynect.” The kynect name was retained because of the “brand awareness” it built, the governor said.Reconnecting it will help qualified Kentuckians get access to affordable health insurance and other benefits to take care of their families and “get back on their feet,” said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a health advocacy group.”It’s government at its best and it’s exactly what Kentuckians need to weather this pandemic and economic recession,” she said in a statement.Steve Beshear used an executive order to expand Medicaid coverage while governor. Kentucky’s Medicaid rolls increased by more than 400,000 people, with many getting coverage for the first time. The state’s uninsured rate dropped sharply after the Affordable Care Act was implemented.The future of the health care law, also known as “Obamacare,” is uncertain. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments later this year on an effort backed by President Donald Trump to strike down the ACA in its entirety.Overturning that law would be “devastating” for the country, Andy Beshear said Monday.His administration branded the new kynect as a “one-stop shop” to apply for a range of benefits.The portal looks similar to the original kynect but includes new features and services. Its mobile-friendly format allows people to use smartphones or tablets to apply for benefits. Kentuckians can track the progress of applications. Also, they can snap a photo of documents with a smartphone and upload it if information is requested for an application.
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