health insurance

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A Western Kentucky University researcher says hospitals now have more incentive than ever before to achieve patient satisfaction.

Neale Chumbler, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services at WKU, says a federal survey of hospital patients is creating a comparison of care providers across the country.

The survey’s official name is Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. Its goal is to measure patients’ perspectives on the care they’ve received.

Chumbler says the results are also being scrutinized by insurance companies.

“As a hospital CEO, whether you get more or less reimbursements through insurance, these types of results will bear a lot of important findings.”

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new, wide-ranging health poll shows that opinion remains split on the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, with most unfavorable opinions coming from northern and western parts of the state. Those areas also happen to have the highest rates of uninsured in the state.

Susan Zepeda is president of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which conducts the annual poll along with Cincinnati-based Interact for Health.

“Overall, what we’re finding with these reports is that an increasing number of Kentuckians have health insurance, but many are still delaying or simply can’t afford necessary health care,” Zepeda said.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll showed that just 41 percent of Kentuckians have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Kentucky’s Medicaid commissioner says the state’s plan to scale back the expanded Medicaid system will not require beneficiaries to pay premiums, according to an Associated Press report.

In the report, Commissioner Stephen Miller goes on to say that Medicaid recipients could receive fewer benefits, including reduced vision and dental services.

Late last year, Gov. Matt Bevin announced that he would by 2017 “transform” the state’s expanded Medicaid system into one where recipients have “skin in the game” by paying for benefits.

Doug Hogan, communications director for Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that the state couldn’t comment on the proposed changes or negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“Everything is on the table and no decisions have been finalized. We are continuing to engage stakeholders and CMS in good faith,” Hogan said.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Bevin administration says it has met the June 1 deadline of demonstrating that it’s made adequate progress in Kentucky’s transition from the state health insurance exchange Kynect, to the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.

Doug Hogan, communications director for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the state has “met milestone requirements ahead of schedule,” but refused to comment on details of what criteria the state has accomplished.

According to a March 15 letter sent to state officials by Kevin Counihan with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government has to “determine whether sufficient progress has been made to proceed with leveraging the federal platform” for the upcoming year.

CMS officials refused to comment on details of Kentucky’s transition to the federal exchange.

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Health insurance companies in Kentucky want to increase rates by an average of 17 percent next year.

The Kentucky Department of Insurance posted rate requests from the state's major insurance carriers on Wednesday. They include plans for individuals and small groups.

These are not premium increases. The base rate is one of several factors used to determine a person's premium, including age, sex and where a person lives. Individual premiums will vary.

State officials blame some of the increases on the failure of the Kentucky Health Cooperative. Many of the company's high-risk customers were picked up by other companies, leading to higher rates.

The rate requests cover plans sold on and off kynect, the state's health insurance exchange. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin plans to dismantle kynect by the end of this year.

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More Kentuckians are gaining health insurance coverage, a trend that has continued since the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2014, according to a report released Wednesday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The fourth quarter 2015 snapshot of the impact of the ACA in Kentucky indicates that the rate of uninsurance was 7.5 percent as of December 2015, down from 9 percent in June 2015.

Nationally, 11.7 percent lacked health insurance as of December; the rate was 10.2 percent for the eight states surrounding Kentucky.

“Lack of insurance is a significant barrier to getting necessary health care and preventive services timely,” said Susan Zepeda, President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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A recent report by Kaiser Family Foundation says Kentucky has one of the most successful implementations of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S.

The report cites the “single, integrated eligibility system [Kentucky] built for Kynect and Medicaid” as one of the most pivotal components to its success.

The foundation also concludes that the state’s leadership and collaboration, outreach and marketing efforts, and diverse network of enrollment assistance were also contributing factors to its success.

In a statement from Saving KY Healthcare, former Gov. Steve Beshear — a principal with the nonprofit — said Kynect and Medicaid expansion had a big impact.

“The successful rollout was largely due to thorough coordination by officials throughout the state, and a comprehensive effort to ensure that all aspects of Kynect and the expansion were ready to launch on day one,” he said.

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Kentucky adults still have a hard time affording health care, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

In 2015, one in five Kentucky adults either didn’t get care or delayed care due to cost, according to the report. That’s down from 2014 and 2009, when 22 percent and 32 percent, respectively, went without needed care due to cost.

Susan Zepeda, president of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said having insurance coverage is a great start, but it doesn’t always get the whole job done.

“Although more and more Kentuckians are able to get the care they need in a timely manner, they’re is still work to be done,” she said. “There are still people who are delaying care or finding that they’re unable to handle the medical bills after they receive care.”

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Before landing a $3.1 million no-bid state contract on Gov. Steve Beshear’s last day in office, the software company that counts a former Beshear cabinet secretary’s husband as a “partner” had already received $8.1 million worth of state business outside of the competitive bidding process.

SAS Institute, a Cary, N.C., technology company, was hired in 2012 to develop a fraud-detection system for Kynect, the state-owned health insurance exchange. It didn’t have to bid for a state contract of its own. Instead, according to Kentucky Finance & Administration Cabinet records, it piggybacked into the job through a “modification” of the main contract with Deloitte Consulting.

As the arrangement was taking shape, one man — Frank Lassiter of Midway, Ky. — had connections on both sides. For SAS, he had just begun serving as one of more than 1,000 technology “partners” listed on its website. For the Beshear administration, Lassiter was executive director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Office of Administrative and Technology Services until 2011. His wife, Mary Lassiter, was state budget director before being named secretary of Beshear’s Executive Cabinet in 2009. Both contributed money to Beshear’s re-election campaign in 2011.

Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, said the governor’s office is weighing the possibility that political — and marital — connections paved the way for SAS.

Lisa Autry

This is the second of a two-part series on proposed changes to Kentucky Medicaid and how Governor Matt Bevin wants to model the program after a similar one in Indiana.  You can see Part 1 here.

When the federal Affordable Care Act was rolled out, Indiana was faced with the same dilemma as other states: give health coverage to more of the uninsured by expanding Medicaid, while taking on hundreds of millions of dollars in costs. 

Indiana Governor Mike Pence persuaded the federal government to approve an alternative for his state. Just over a year ago, the state implemented the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0.  Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin wants to launch a similar program as he looks to revamp his state's Medicaid system. 

In the year since Indiana implemented the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, or HIP, more than 370,000 Hoosiers have enrolled in the program.  Among them is Mary Buchanan, who is self-employed.  A shoulder injury no longer allows her to work full-time.  By working less, the 63-year-old from Rockport couldn’t afford the private insurance she used to carry.  She picked up the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, or HIP, about a year ago.

"One less thing for me to worry about 24\7, said Buchanon, who met WKU Public Radio at the Spencer County Library.  "What if something happens to me?  Am I going to have to file bankruptcy?  One trip to the hospital can wipe you out.”

Under HIP 2.0, Buchanan pays just under $14 a month in premiums and has no co-pays or deductibles for her medical care.

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This is the first in a two-part series on Medicaid, Kentucky's expansion of the government-subsidized program, and proposed changes to Medicaid.

As Governor Matt Bevin prepares to re-design Kentucky’s Medicaid program, a new national survey shows the commonwealth with the second-largest gains in insurance coverage. 

More than half-a-million Kentuckians obtained coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.  Some 80 percent of the newly insured went onto the Medicaid rolls. 

But many Medicaid enrollees are worried about what lies ahead under the state’s new Republican governor.  Teresa Bowley was at a recent health insurance sign-up event in Bowling Green to ask a question about changing providers.  Six months ago, she qualified for coverage through Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion. 

Now when she gets sick, she goes to the doctor. But that hasn’t always been the case. 

”You just don’t. You just try to think this will go away on its own.  You have to miss work," Bowley explained.

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A new study says the number of low-income Kentuckians without health insurance declined by 68 percent in the first year of the state’s Medicaid expansion.

The research was conducted by the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences Department of Health Management and Systems Sciences by faculty members Joseph Benitez, Liza Creel and J’Aime Jennings.

It was published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

The study said 35 percent of low-income Kentuckians were uninsured at the end of 2013, and 11 percent were uninsured in late 2014. The research aligns with past studies that show sharp drops in the rate of uninsured in Kentucky since the Affordable Care Act was implemented.

Benitez and his colleagues also found declines in the number of people lacking a regular source of health care and those with unmet medical needs.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to reshape the state’s approach to the Affordable Care Act have led to a political battle of governors unprecedented in recent state history.

On Thursday, former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, launched a political nonprofit organization to advocate for key policies implemented by his administration, which ended in December. Those policies included an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a state health insurance exchange, called Kynect.

Both policies are being threatened by Bevin’s administration, which is seeking to add new stipulations to Medicaid enrollment and to dismantle Kynect, instead sending Kentuckians to the federal health care exchange.

Beshear’s new group is called Save Kentucky Healthcare, a 501c(4) organization.

“Save Kentucky Healthcare is committed to continuing Kentucky’s dramatic success in expanding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now, why? Because it’s working,” Beshear said during a news conference Thursday in Louisville.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says he is starting an advocacy group to oppose Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plans to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, and scale back its Medicaid expansion.

Beshear is scheduled to announce “Save Kentucky Healthcare” during events in Louisville and Lexington on Thursday. In a news release, Beshear said he is troubled by Bevin’s plans to roll back what he called Kentucky’s nation-leading progress in improving the health of its people.

Beshear left office in December. During his eight years in office, he expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program and created a state-operated health insurance exchange where eligible Kentuckians could purchase discounted private health insurance plans. He did so under the Affordable Care Act.

Bevin criticized both programs as too expensive. He says he will dismantle Kynect by the end of the year and is trying to replace the Medicaid expansion with a different program.

Norton Healthcare

A new national survey shows Kentucky and Arkansas lead the nation in the largest drops of the number of people without health insurance.

The Gallup-Healthways survey shows more than 20 percent of Kentuckians did not have health insurance in 2013. Last year, just 7.5 percent of the state’s population did not have insurance. Arkansas had a similar drop.

The survey shows states that expanded Medicaid and operated a state exchange outperformed other states in the percentage of people who have insurance.

Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has already given the order to dismantle the state exchange and is seeking to reform the state Medicaid system.

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