Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 5:53 am
With another impending deadline for coverage, enrollment in Kentucky’s health insurance exchange is steadily growing, says Nicole Comeaux, deputy executive director for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.
So far, 12,500 individuals have enrolled in qualified health plans and 25,700 individuals have newly enrolled in Medicaid coverage, Comeaux said during a wide-ranging conference call Wednesday with health care exchange directors from other states.
The uninsured rate has dropped 4.2 percentage points since the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for Americans to have health insurance went into effect last year, according to a Gallup-Healthways Well Being analysis.
During the fourth quarter of 2014, the uninsured rate dropped to 12.9 percent. This is the lowest recorded rate since Galup-Healthways began tracking the measure daily in 2008.
A year ago the uninsured rate was 17.1 percent.
The survey found that the uninsured rate declined as more Americans signed up for health insurance through federal and state health insurance exchanges in the first and second quarters of 2014.
Tonya Ratliff’s 15-year-old son Tyler has been living with diabetes for 10 years. Two years ago, doctors told the Owensboro family they’d have to start replacing the insert in Tyler’s diabetes pump more frequently.
“It already was a lot, and that would double it," she said. "So I was like ‘I don’t think I can do that,'."
With three sons, it would be an extra financial burden the Ratliff family. Their doctor told them about a foundation that helps pay for medical expenses not covered by a healthcare plan.
Since 2007, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation has given 7,500 grants across the country. In the last three years, 90 of them have been in Kentucky, providing nearly $300,000 for families with children 16 and under. The organization is trying to increase the number of Kentucky families who receive assistance.
“It was a life-changing experience for us, because we literally lived paycheck to paycheck and this was a great burden off of us,” said Ratliff.
The program can cover up to $5,000 dollars in expenses, and each child can receive a maximum of $10,000 over a lifetime.
The percentage of people without health insurance in Kentucky has dropped at the second biggest rate in the nation.
According to a Gallup poll released this week, the number of uninsured dropped from over 20 percent in 2013 to about 12 percent as of July 2014, reflecting an eight-and-a-half percent decline since the federal Affordable Care Act took effect. The only other state to experience a sharper decline was Arkansas, whose uninsured rate dropped about 10 percent.
The states rounding out the top five after Kentucky are Delaware, Washington and Colorado.
Gov. Steve Beshear touted the news in a press release, attributing the new data to the state’s implementation of the ACA via kynect, the state’s health insurance exchange.
The poll also reported that the rate of uninsured in 21 states like Kentucky that expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA and set up their own exchanges declined “more significantly” than those states that did not.
As of July, over 520,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in health care through the state exchange, with three-quarters of the newly insured enrolled in Medicaid.
WKU is beginning to prepare its employees for likely changes to the school’s health plan. At a forum Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the school’s Human Resources Department told workers that WKU’s self-funded model is coming under significant strain.
The school says it saw a 13.3 percent increase in medical expenses in 2013 compared to the previous year, with expenses exceeding revenue by more than $2 million.
WKU is predicting that unless changes are made, the school’s health plan expenses could increase by 8 to 10 percent in 2015.
No definitive announcement was made, however, about whether employee premiums or deductibles will be increasing. Speaking to WKU Public Radio after the forum, Assistant Director of Human Resources Kari Aikins described the school’s timeline for announcing any changes.
“We’re going to continue to evaluate and model these options financially over the next month, month-and-a-half, and then start making some formalized recommendations to our leadership and President--through our benefits committee--and hopefully have something set in stone by the end of August,” Aikens said.
A new report finds that Kentucky’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured people in the state.
The report, released Wednesday by the personal finance website WalletHub, finds that Kentucky now ranks 10th in the nation for the lowest number of uninsured individuals, at just under nine percent of the population. That number was over 17 percent before the ACA became law, reflecting an 8 percent drop in the rate in one year’s time.
It also found that about 30 percent of Kentuckians under 65 are enrolled in Medicaid.
Nearly 83,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in new private health insurance plans, and 265,000 have enrolled in Medicaid as of April 2014.
New numbers and demographic information released by the White House Thursday reveal some telling details about the 8 million people who selected new health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state marketplaces.
Kentucky’s public health commissioner is encouraged by the number of young adults who enrolled in health insurance on Kynect, the state’s online health exchange.
Fifty percent of new enrollees were under the age of 35, which Dr. Stephanie Mayfield says should mean cost savings.
"You would think this would be a healthier population who would be accessing the system for preventive measures and not as many chronic diseases," explained Mayfield. "It's an opportunity to intervene in the still relatively early years and have less of a financial impact on the system."
Dr. Mayfield spoke Tuesday at WKU about Kentucky’s health challenges.
The state has several initiatives underway that include reducing the rates of smoking, obesity, and cancer deaths, all by 2019.
Kentucky’s highest-ranking Democratic lawmaker says language in the state’s budget that attempts to pull funding for the Affordable Care Act won’t kill the program.
Kentucky is set to begin paying a portion of the cost for expanded Medicaid and the health-insurance exchange in 2017. Provisions in the recently-passed state budget bar state money from going toward the program.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo says it's largely symbolic.
“We know that that would have been probably something that we’d still been there debating, and so after reviewing the language and reviewing the governor’s implementation of what we call ‘Beshear Care,’ we didn’t feel like that this language would be egregious to the governor in moving forward.”
The governor’s office spearheaded Kentucky’s implementation of the ACA, but has declined to comment on the budget language.
Today marks an important deadline for the thousands of Kentuckians still without health insurance. It’s the last day until November to sign up for Medicaid or private insurance on the state’s health exchange known as Kynect.
Gwenda Bond in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says there will be some exceptions for qualifying events.
"If people lose their health insurance coverage for some reason, a job loss or change, a marriage or divorce, then they'll be able to sign up and apply for subsidies," says Gwenda Bond in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "In addition to that, people will be able to sign up for Medicaid after the 31st."
Small businesses may also enroll in coverage at any time.
Over the weekend, the state increased personnel and extended hours at the Kynect call center to accommodate a last-minute surge of enrollments.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 350,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in coverage on the health exchange.