May 09 2014

Kentucky: A Model for Health Insurance Exchange Success

Several factors led to a timely rollout of the state health insurance exchange.

While the IT troubles and political challenges of the federal and state health insurance exchanges are well known, Kentucky succeeded where many others have failed.

“Why in the world would we want to build an exchange? The short answer is that most of our residents don’t have access to quality affordable healthcare, said Chris Clark, technology program manager for the Kentucky Office of Administrative and Technology Services. Kentucky ranks near the bottom in many national health-related rankings, largely due to the fact that there were 640,000 uninsured residents.

Dubbed Kynect, the health insurance exchange launched on Oct. 1, 2013, with just under a year of development. Speaking at the NASCIO 2014 Midyear Conference in Baltimore, Clark shared the reasons for the project’s success in a highly polarizing environment. “To say this project was visible would be an understatement — it’s the most visible project I’ve ever worked on,” he said.

As with most IT projects, everything comes down to governance and oversight. Kentucky was fortunate to have strong support from Gov. Steve Beshear and the cabinet secretary, Clark notes. He established a project management office with eight component projects that fell under it: business transformation, security, plan management, eligibility and enrollment, contact center, identity management, document management and conversion.

Kentucky used off-the-shelf products and hosted the plan management components in the cloud. Deloitte served as the system integrator and the state was able to use its existing identity management system from Accenture.

Clark attributes the success of the project under such an aggressive timeline to five critical factors:

  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • Relationships
  • Experience
  • Solution

“One thing we learned is that people united in a noble cause are more passionate about success,” Clark said.

To date, Kentucky has enrolled 83,000 in private insurance plans and has another major release of Kynect coming in June.