A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Thomas B. Stephens: A success story worth sharing about Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan

In Frankfort, good news very rarely ever garners media attention. However, as the benefit enrollment period for Kentucky public employees opens this month, there is a story that needs to be told — one that impacts over 6% of the Commonwealth’s population.

It is the story of the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan run by the Personnel Cabinet under the leadership and direction of my boss, Governor Matt Bevin. The Plan touches every school teacher, state agency employee, and state agency retiree under the age of 65.

Thomas B. Stephens

This is a success story.

Unfortunately, as we are all well aware, healthcare costs nationwide in recent years have risen at an exorbitant rate. Yet, the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan has been able to maintain low-to-no premium increases through sound financial management and innovative programming. None of our plans have experienced more than a 1% increase in employee premiums over the last four years. In September, we introduced our rates for the 2020 Plan Year. The highest premium increase any employee in the Plan will see is less than $20 per month. Most increases are substantially less. That’s truly unheard of in any other realm.

Programs such as LiveHealth Online Medical and LiveHealth Online Psychiatry and Psychology are allowing our employees to access care on their mobile devices for free, saving the Plan money by avoiding emergency room and other high-cost visits.  The Value Benefit Programs for diabetes, COPD, and asthma provide our members with maintenance prescriptions and supplies for these conditions at reduced or no costs — ensuring members remain with their treatment programs while creating healthier outcomes. The SmartShopper Program helps members shop for medical services and receive cashback when the member chooses a lower-cost facility.

I am passionate about the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan and proud of its successes, in part because of the role it played in the life of my mother.

My mother spent her career as a public school teacher. After her diagnosis with a form of Lou Gehrig’s disease, she was able to seek treatment from some of the finest medical centers in America thanks to her participation in the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan. I am grateful for the treatment she received, and I will continue to fight for all our members to receive that same exceptional level of treatment at the absolute lowest possible cost.

The Plan’s success under Gov. Bevin’s leadership was not a foregone conclusion.  During the Beshear administration, the former Personnel Cabinet secretary sadly took advantage of the plan and its members by receiving kickbacks; and he is now spending time in federal prison.

Thankfully, the misdeeds of yesterday are a thing of the past, and the Plan is moving full steam ahead. The success story of the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan is part of Gov. Bevin’s unwavering commitment to fight for affordable healthcare and better health outcomes for all Kentuckians, and it is a story worth sharing.
Thomas B. Stephens is the Secretary of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet.

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