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KY Farm Family: Easy Access to Health Insurance Critical

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Farmers Bree Pearsall and Ben Abell say the state-based health exchange has helped them get their small family business in Oldham County off the ground. (Rootbound Farm)
Farmers Bree Pearsall and Ben Abell say the state-based health exchange has helped them get their small family business in Oldham County off the ground. (Rootbound Farm)
 By Greg Stotelmyer Contact
February 16, 2016

CRESTWOOD, Ky. - Governor Matt Bevin's decision to dismantle the state's highly-acclaimed health insurance marketplace, Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange or kynect, has rankled many who advocate for easy access to coverage. Ben Abell, who farms in Oldham County with his wife Bree Pearsall, says kynect is an important economic tool for their family business.

"It is kind of a critical component for small business owners and entrepreneurs," says Abell. "Access to affordable health care is really a bottleneck for many of us, and kynect kind of helped us to navigate that marketplace."

The governor plans to redirect Kentuckians shopping for health insurance to the federal website by late this year - a change he says will avoid duplication. But, the federal site cannot be used to enroll Kentuckians in Medicaid, something kynect does now.

Abell and Pearsall, both in their early 30s, operate Rootbound Farm on 85 acres of leased land, where they grow produce and raise lambs.

When they had their first child last September they became eligible for Medicaid, but Bree Pearsall says they first used kynect to sign up for private insurance and that's why they can now both work, full-time, on the farm.

"Without having an insurance plan that we can have access to as entrepreneurs one of us, at least, would have to be working a job off the farm to be able to provide health insurance," says Pearsall. "And that would really stunt our ability to grow our business."

Pearsall says it's a roadblock many "mom and pop" businesses deal with. That's why she and her husband want Bevin to reconsider. Abell's message to the governor and state lawmakers - kynect works well and is under state-control.

"And so more responsive to the people of this state," he says. "And, so when we look at essentially a federal take over of our state exchange will it be responsive to the unique needs of Kentucky's small business owners? I think that's the great unknown at this point."

Abell and Pearsall say for farmers, whose incomes often fluctuate, having kynect would make it much easier to maintain consistent health insurance coverage.

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