Collapse of Kentucky co-op could be wildcard in governor’s race

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adam Meier: Bevin’s pension plan would protect Kentucky and its public employees.

The sudden collapse of nonprofit health plans supported by tens of millions of dollars in Obamacare loans is igniting a new political wildfire over the health law — and it’s playing out in a tight gubernatorial race in Kentucky. Jailer Freddie Lewis tells WYMT-TV (http://bit.ly/1MlnxGBhttp://bit.ly/1MlnxGB ) the four inmates beat Matthew Dotson earlier this month at the Pike County jail after they were given false information about him.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky’s next governor will have just two months to craft a spending plan to contain the state’s skyrocketing public pension debt, account for its rapidly expanding Medicaid population and boost dwindling resources for public education.A recent op-ed by the National Public Pension Coalition called Matt Bevin’s plan to switch future state employees from the defined-benefit pension plans to defined contribution 401(k) style accounts “misguided,” To be fair, there were a few accurate statements included. The recent demise of Kentucky Health Cooperative, a nonprofit startup seeded with federal loan dollars under the Affordable Care Act, is part of a bigger, national trend. Yet the two major-party candidates vying to be the state’s chief executive – Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway – would rely on dramatically different experiences to tackle that looming challenge. Charles Bertram/Staff This commentary was submitted by Kentucky Education Association president Stephanie Winkler and past presidents Sharron Oxendine, Frances Steenbergen, Judith Gambill, Janet Carrico, David Allen, John Henrickson, Joyce Dotson, June Lee, Wayne Harvey, Jim Sproul and Doris Morton.

For example, the author correctly noted that Standard & Poor’s recently lowered Kentucky’s credit rating due to the poor state of its public pension system. Lieutenant Johnny Cooper says the inmates, Larry Kendrick, James Rowe, Derek Nunemaker and Adam Charles, have been put in isolation until further notice. We have had the honor of speaking for the teachers and classified employees without whom the current remarkable accomplishments of those students and those schools would not be possible.

However, it failed to note that Bevin’s opponent, Jack Conway, wants to keep things business as usual, offering no plan to address the pension crisis. We know well how much the future of our schools, our students and our colleagues depend on the philosophy, goals and commitments of the governor we elect on Nov. 3. First, it says that the move to 401(k) style plans would “rob thousands of Kentuckians of their hard-earned retirement security.” However, Bevin’s plan only calls for moving future public employees, not existing ones, to a 401(k) plan.

The Kentucky plan dominated exchange enrollment during the first two years of operations, capturing roughly 60 percent of customers in a red state hailed as a symbol of Obamacare’s potential. It was a surprising exchange that seemingly puts the two major party nominees at odds with members of their own state and national political parties, but it seemed to fit right in to a tumultuous governor’s race in one of the last southern states where Democrats still hang on to power despite staggering losses in federal elections. Kentucky voters will head to the polls next week in a gubernatorial election that has focused mostly on the merits of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. The author also stated that the switch has “huge up-front cost” because “with fewer new workers entering a group retirement system […] there are fewer people in the plan to cover the costs of those who retire.” This is not accurate because our state pension plans are not pay-as-you-go systems (like Social Security), where current employee contributions are used to fund current retirees’ benefits.

Since 2009, Conway’s office had seven budget reductions totaling $5.2 million, or a 37 percent decrease from the $14 million budget Conway inherited when he was first elected. In addition, the plans were saddled with rules that prohibited them from using federal funds for marketing and restricted which customers they could go after. “Insurance companies did everything they could to kill co-ops in the crib,” said former Democratic Sen. In 2009, as the state was mired in budget deficits, Conway gave himself a 10 percent pay cut by writing a personal check to the state treasury of roughly $10,500. On the issue of coal, Conway touted his office’s suit against the Obama administration’s new EPA regulations while Bevin said Kentucky needs to capture its share of the emerging world coal market.

When asked about medical marijuana, Conway said he supported it but Bevin said it could make it easier for people to access the drug for recreational use. In our respective school districts across Kentucky, each of us observed far too many students who were unable to receive necessary medical attention because their families lacked health insurance. Republicans have seized on the failures as the result of ill-advised government meddling in the private insurance market and the latest evidence that Obamacare isn’t working.

Sadly, this practice put other students — and school employees — at risk and often contributed to the spread of flu and other illnesses, which disrupted the lives of many other students and their families. The author noted that Michigan, in the 15 years after making the switch to 401(k), went from being 109 percent funded to 60 percent funded — a 45 percent decrease to the funded amount.

Thanks to the recent expansion of Medicaid coverage through Kynect (which has been held up as a national model of excellence in the provision of health care coverage to those least able to afford it), more families than ever before have access to affordable medical care, and do not have to send their children to school sick or, worse, keep them at home untreated. Ben Sasse vowed to block all appointments to HHS until the agency explains why the startups are failing. “The administration knew beforehand that this plan was not viable and that tens of thousands of people could lose their coverage,” the Kentucky Republican said. “They chose to cling fast to a disastrous left-wing experiment with our health care system …” Conway, meanwhile, has maintained a steady, but minuscule lead in the polls. Steve Beshear’s administration, staying in a defined benefit pension system, the system went from 56 percent funded in 2007 to 21 percent funded in 2014 — a 62 percent decrease.

Alaska was another interesting choice for comparison given that it was recently ranked No. 1 in the George Mason University Mercatus Center rankings for having best state fiscal condition. That means any minor change in the landscape could tilt the outcome, particularly in an off-year election where voter turnout is only expected to be around 30 percent. That company, Integrity Asset Management, had no revenue and faced legal threats from another Fortune 500 company that made it difficult for Bevin to win business. The vast majority of Kentuckians who have gained coverage under Obamacare are enrolled in public programs, with more than 500,000 individuals added to the Medicaid and CHIP rolls since 2013.

During the Republican primary, Bevin was unequivocal about wanting to roll back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, a stance that helped him prevail in a fierce GOP primary in May. When Bevin sold the company in 2011, it was managing $3 billion in assets. “I’ve taken things off the ash heap that other people have washed their hands of and turned it around,” Bevin said. “This state needs a turnaround.” But with so many business interests -ownership of all or part of 10 companies, plus real estate and other personal investments – Bevin has had trouble keeping up with his taxes. And if current public employees want to see long-term viability for their retirement, they should look past the misleading rhetoric offered by a public-pension advocacy group.

He wants the state to seek a waiver from the federal government enabling it to slash the cost of the program, while not entirely eliminating expanded coverage. But even Republicans concede Bevin has provided scant details about how he would accomplish that. “It’s unclear exactly what his answer would be,” said Scott Lasley, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University and GOP activist. “There’s a lot of folks that are concerned about how that will play out.” Some political observers are skeptical that health care issues, about which voters are notoriously uninformed, will ultimately prove decisive. MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP) — April Miller and Karen Roberts stood before a minister Saturday night, hand-in-hand, and said the two words they fought for months to exchange. In an interview with The Associated Press, Bevin acknowledged his tax issues but noted his critics “could have done just as breathless a story of all the times I paid my taxes early and gotten a discount on it.” “Sometimes you do pay it late and you pay interest on having paid it late. The couple, the first denied a license by Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, celebrated their wedding Saturday, capping a months-long saga that landed them in the middle of a national firestorm over religious freedom and civil rights.

You do this all the time in business.” He said late payments on his personal properties happened because of mix-ups with mortgage companies and small-town governments, which he said had nothing to do with his ability to manage money. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.

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