Affordable Care Act

With a bit more than a month left for people to sign up for health insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act, the federal website known as finally seems to be working smoothly — in 36 states.

But what's happening in the 14 states that are running their own exchanges?

January was a miserable month for weather, but the wintry blasts in much of the country weren't enough to stop people from shopping for health insurance.

More than 1.1 million people signed up for coverage through state and federal health exchanges in January, according to a just-released report, bringing the total to just shy of 3.3 million people.

Now that the problems with the balky website are largely fixed, the Obama administration is finally feeling comfortable enough to launch some of the outreach it planned for last fall.

Its top target: young adults, specifically those between 18 and 35.

The Kentucky Access program is closing to make way for the Affordable Care Act.

The 14-year-old program was created to provide affordable health coverage to high-risk Kentuckians. It's ending because of a provision in the ACA that requires insurers to provide coverage to those people  regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Louisville Rep. Steve Riggs sponsored legislation that created the program in 2000. He says Kentucky Access isn't needed now that the ACA is implemented.

“It’s redundant, yeah. Duplicative. So that’s why the Department of Insurance is phasing it out, because now you can get that same type of coverage with the ACA, with Kentucky KYnect, and in many cases I understand it’s less expensive."

Kentuckians who obtained insurance through the program will now have to sign up for coverage under the state’s health insurance exchange, KYnect, before April or they will face tax penalties.

At its peak, Kentucky Access enrolled about 4,800 people.

Kevin Willis

Kentucky's Second District Congressman believes the problems with the rollout of Obamacare make it more likely major changes will be made to the law.

Bowling Green Republican Brett Guthrie is sponsoring a ten-point bill that includes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking Friday to a gathering of area business leaders, Guthrie said while a repeal isn't likely, the public is getting a glimpse of the problems related to greater government involvement in health care.

Guthrie also said Republicans missed an opportunity to highlight those points when the federal government was shut down.

"I think what would have been better for us, as the government shutdown was happening is not just, ‘let’s repeal Obamacare, and if not the government shuts down.’ Why don’t we say, ‘here’s our alternative to address people in the insurance market that are being priced out of the market without affecting it for everybody else.'”

Since the Affordable Care Act's health care exchanges launched to a long series of error messages Oct. 1, most of the "what went wrong" fingers have been pointing at software developers.

But some say there's more to it than that — that politics has played a role as well.

Remember how that fight over the budget was all about Obamacare?

Seems like ancient history now, but House Republicans ostensibly shut down the government 17 days ago, demanding first a defunding, and, when that failed, a year's delay in the health law.

  More than 16,000 applications for health insurance have been started in Kentucky since enrollment began this week under the state's new online marketplace, prompting Gov. Steve Beshear to declare that the state has become the "gold standard" for implementing the federal health care overhaul. 

The governor's office said nearly 11,000 applications had been completed by early Friday, and 4,739 individuals or families had picked health plans and signed up for coverage.

More than 137,000 people had browsed the website and 93 percent of them went through pre-screenings to determine if they qualify for subsidized coverage or Medicaid.

Also, 166 small businesses had started applications for health insurance for employees, it said.

"That tells me that there is not only a pent-up demand, but there is an eagerness to get affordable health insurance," Beshear said.

Kentuckians who sign up before Dec. 15 will start receiving coverage on Jan. 1.

The Department of Health and Human Services released insurance premium prices for federally-run exchanges today, including Tennessee, showing premiums in some states are lower than initially estimated.

But Kentucky’s exchange called kynect is state-run and wasn’t on that list.

Kynect has released the actual costs and range of plans for certain hypothetical situations. Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokesperson Gwenda Bond says people can find out their individual costs beginning Oct. 1, which is the first day to apply for open enrollment.

Bond says all but 50,000 of the more than 600,000 uninsured Kentuckians will qualify for either the Medicaid expansion or premium subsidies through kynect.

Sen. Mitch McConnell and Gov. Steve Beshear squared off in a heated debate about the federal health-care law at the Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast.

The Democratic governor said Thursday the Affordable Care Act will work in Kentucky.

Beshear said the law will improve Kentucky's health problems, which include some of the nation's worst rates for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

McConnell, the Senate's top-ranking Republican, said the law is driving up health insurance premiums and forcing employers to reduce working hours for many employees. McConnell said the law should be repealed.