“The biggest issue is the health of our state… Our health is a barrier to economic growth,” Jason Bailey, Director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy told MSNBC. “That’s why kynect and Medicaid expansion are such a huge opportunity for our state.”

Two weeks ago, Kentuckians elected a new Governor who has promised time and again to dismantle the state’s health insurance marketplace, known as kynect, and scale back Medicaid expansion through an 1115 waiver. After almost two years of Kentucky being heralded as a national model for closing the coverage gap, it’s sobering to think of all the health gains the state stands to lose.

Kentucky leads the nation in the decrease in uninsured, dropping from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 8.5 percent in 2014, while the uninsured rate for children dropped from 5.9 percent to 4.3 percent. To date, Kentucky has enrolled more than 500,000 people in a state of just 4.4 million. It’s an impressive number, but the real benefits of expanded coverage go far beyond that. What’s been so exciting for health advocates across Kentucky is that we’re already starting to see positive results from the expansion of Medicaid. In the first year of the expansion, there has been a dramatic spike in preventive screenings and services as well as visits to primary care providers.

According to a recently released quarterly snapshot from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), a health policy research institute at the University of Minnesota, breast cancer screenings in the second quarter of 2015 totaled more than 9,000 for the approximately 400,000 covered under the expansion, compared to just shy of 1,200 screenings for the traditional Medicaid population of more than 900,000 individuals. Likewise, screening rates for hepatitis C, diabetes, and colorectal cancer, among others, have all increased significantly since the expansion.

What this tells us is working Kentuckians are being proactive with their health and seeking out preventive services before they get sick, which can mean better health and cost savings down the road. In addition to our health gains, expanded coverage has also led to job creation, an increase in payments to providers and a decrease in uncompensated care. All of these things add up to more jobs, more local spending and a stronger economy. To see how much Kentucky is benefiting, take a look at our expanded coverage infographic.

But even more compelling than the data are the stories of Kentuckians who have gotten coverage. Like Tammy Cox from Pineville, who used her coverage for a physical and mammogram. And the Barr family, farmers from Meade County, who are self-employed and worried that an accident could bankrupt them.

Kentucky also stands to lose a lot if we move to the federal Marketplace. The notion that kynect is only duplicative of the federal Marketplace and provides no value just simply isn’t the case. kynect provides a lot of outreach and education to Kentuckians about how to enroll in health insurance, and, more importantly, how to use their new coverage. There are kynectors trained to provide face-to-face assistance who live and work in communities all across Kentucky. Stories like Jennifer Gates’, a kynector from Clay County who has helped to keep a homeless man insured and on diabetes treatment, demonstrate that our kynectors have become trusted resources in their communities and don’t stop at getting someone an insurance card. They go above and beyond that to connect people with a source of care.

These are some of the many ways we can tell that kynect and expanded coverage are working. It doesn’t make sense to throw that away for a one-size-fits-all federal system that doesn’t provide the same level of assistance or education to Kentuckians. And with Kentucky sitting at 47th in the nation on health status, it’s critical that we continue to do everything we can to ensure that people have access to affordable care when they need it.

Author: Emily Beauregard, Kentucky Voices for Health