Andy Beshear hopes Gov.-elect Matt Bevin will consult with him about future of health exchange

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FRANKFORT, Kentucky — Matt Bevin's plans to repeal Steve Beshear's health care reforms could face opposition from Beshear's son, the newly elected attorney general.

Andy Beshear would not say Tuesday if he is committed to protecting kynect, the state-run health insurance exchange likely to be the biggest piece of his father's legacy as Kentucky's governor. But he did say he wants Bevin, the Republican elected to replace Beshear with nearly 53 percent of the vote last week, to consult him before taking any action on the exchange, noting the significant costs that will likely be associated with ending it.

"One part of my job is to provide advice to the governor when asked. I would hope we would be consulted on that and begin the conversation," Beshear said Tuesday.

Kentucky was one of 13 states that chose to set up its own health insurance marketplace. The rest of the country relied on the federal exchange, though its rollout was marred by technical problems that tarnished its reputation with consumers. Kynect, meanwhile, has been praised as a national model by President Barack Obama and health care advocates across the country.

Last week, Bevin said he would dismantle kynect because "it adds nothing of value." The exchange was set up with the help of a $283 million federal grant. Its $26.8 million annual budget comes from a 1 percent tax on all health insurance premiums, including those not sold on kynect. The federal exchange is paid for with a 3.5 percent tax on insurance premiums, but it is applied only to plans sold on the exchange.

Bevin said it makes no sense for Kentucky to pay for its own system when the federal government already provides one. State health officials disagree. Seven insurance companies now sell plans on kynect, and they worry a higher assessment could reduce the number of choices.

Beshear said he has not spoken with Bevin yet but hopes to meet with him soon.

"Kynect exists in a very complicated regulatory and legal environment. Just the steps that might have to be taken for a change are significant," Beshear said. "I think we need to let (Bevin) get his team together so he can look at what he wants to do in the context of what it would take and what it would cost."

Jessica Ditto, a spokeswoman for Bevin, said he looks forward to "working closely" with Beshear on this issue.

"His style is one of collaboration whenever possible," she said.

Beshear said he also wants Bevin to consult with him before issuing an executive order to change Kentucky's marriage licenses. Bevin wants to remove the names of the county clerks from the forms to protect the few clerks who object to same-sex marriage for religious reasons. His order would come after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis spent five days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Gov. Steve Beshear, who could not seek re-election because of term limits, said only the legislature can change the licenses. Bevin disagrees.

"There may end up being different nuances on that issue, but we'll address it at that time," Andy Beshear said.

Andy Beshear announced a transition team on Tuesday that includes people who worked in his father's administration, including J. Michael Brown, secretary of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

"I have a duty and I believe in my duty to work with everyone that was recently elected. So I hope that to form a good relationship with Gov.-elect Bevin," Beshear said. "I hope on many things that we can work together."

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