Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told Obamacare supporters on Tuesday his state rolled out one of the nation’s most successful health exchanges by keeping things simple and not letting political winds knock them off course.
Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, leads the only southern state that opted to set up its own Obamacare exchange and expand Medicaid under the law.
“Quite honestly, voters in Kentucky don’t support the president very strongly,” he told a crowd assembled by Enroll America in downtown Washington.
But Kentuckians embraced his reforms, he said, sometimes because they didn’t know “kynect” was the same thing as Mr. Obama’s signature law.
He said the project started humbly, setting up shop in a warehouse with surplus furniture.
“It didn’t look like much, but people noticed that its open-air, stripped down atmosphere created the feeling of a start-up,” Mr. Beshear said.
Kentucky earned kudos for setting up an exchange that may have lacked bells and whistles, but actually worked. Meanwhile, the federal HealthCare.gov crashed upon its launch and some states struggled throughout the six-month enrollment from September to mid-April.
Mr. Beshear said Kentucky is probably better known for its horses, fried chicken or bourbon, but an army of kynect volunteers and advocates blanketed state fairs and made inroads despite political opposition from its Republican senators in Washington.
The state’s success has created a bizarre political situation in Kentucky, where contenders for U.S. Senate must balance kynect’s progress with negative feelings about Obamacare.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, took flack recently for suggesting kynect could somehow survive even if Obamacare did not, while Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes has not offered vocal support of the law.
Mr. Beshear said state residents are tuning out the partisan rhetoric and looking at their options.
“They ended up deciding, ‘I’m going to find out for myself,” he said.