Admittedly, when it comes to health—and, more generally, well-being—Kentucky has nowhere to go but up.
But its governor, Steve Beshear, has made it clear that, against the political machinations of its two senators, the state needs and wants Obamacare.
It’s no coincidence that numerous governors — not just Democrats like me but also Republicans like Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan — see the Affordable Care Act not as a referendum on President Obama but as a tool for historic change.
That is especially true in Kentucky, a state where residents’ collective health has long been horrendous. The state ranks among the worst, if not the worst, in almost every major health category, including smoking, cancer deaths, preventable hospitalizations, premature death, heart disease and diabetes.
We’re making progress, but incremental improvements are not enough. We need big solutions with the potential for transformational change.
The Affordable Care Act is one of those solutions.
In addition, Kentucky has enacted one of the often-overlooked parts of the new act: healthcare cooperatives [ht: sm].
One group of insurers opening for business today under the Affordable Care Act is out to change all of health care: health care cooperatives.
The co-ops are private non-profits offering insurance to individuals and small employers through the new health care exchanges. They emerged as a compromise, after Congress rejected a government-run insurance. They’re meant to compete with larger, commercial insurance companies.
The original idea was to have a co-op in every state, but Congress cut the start up funding, and only 22 co-ops open for business today, with another two expected to be up and running in the next few months.
Co-ops face several challenges, including limits on how they can spend their start-up money from the government. They are not allowed use it for advertising, for example, which presents a challenge in enrolling customers. They also lack the volume which would allow them to negotiate better rates with hospitals and drug companies.
So, as of yesterday, residents of the state can now begin to improve their health and overall well-being by joining the Kentucky Health Cooperative, Inc.