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.
With this year's deadline to register for individual health insurance just a weekend away, much attention is being lavished on two numbers — the 6 million Americans who have signed up so far, and the percentage of those folks who are (or aren't) young.
But experts say the national numbers actually don't mean very much.
Just over a week from now is the deadline for Kentucky’s uninsured to get coverage through the state’s health care exchange known as Kynect. The state is working to reach as much of the uninsured population as possible.
On Saturday, several Bowling Green residents turned out for a sign-up event at the Greenwood Mall. Among them was 32-year-old Jason Abney who was frustrated trying to navigate the website on his own.
"I didn't know exactly which website to go to because when you pull up Kynect on the Internet, it goes to three or four pages at a time, and it was just a hassle," remarked Abney.
Abney has been without health insurance the past year-and-a-half. He lost coverage when he left his job at a Bowling Green manufacturing plant.
“I used to have insurance when I worked for Magna and it was pretty good insurance. I had a car wreck and they paid a bunch of hospital bills, so it pays to have insurance," he added.
Abney got assistance from Sandra Lindsey with Community Action of Southern Kentucky. She’s a ‘Kynector,’ someone who’s been trained by state officials to help the public navigate Kentucky’s health care exchange.
Newly-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau show nearly 17 percent of Kentuckians under the age of 65 lack health insurance. Those figures are similar to the health insurance outlook in Tennessee and Indiana, as well.
In Kentucky, Daviess County has a relatively low number of those without insurance, at 14.5 percent. Logan County, meanwhile, has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the state, at 22.3 percent.
The Census Bureau numbers are from 2011, and take into account each state’s residents under the age of 65, looking at all races, genders, and income levels.
You can see the Census Bureau's data in a county-by-county breakdown of Kentucky here.
Tennessee's information is here, and Indiana's can be seen here.
Activists said Thursday after a board meeting for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange that they are supporting a bill to require legislative approval of the exchange, which was created by executive order of the governor.
Meanwhile, exchange executive director Carrie Banahan told board members that progress is being made in setting up a website that's supposed to make picking health insurance similar to buying an airline ticket from an online travel site. The site will allow consumers to compare costs and benefits.
Exchanges are a key part of the President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul. Banahan predicts about 300,000 people will purchase insurance through Kentucky's exchange.
The chairman of a Kentucky Senate committee is promising to file legislation aimed at preventing Gov. Beshear from setting up two major pieces of the federal health care law without legislative approval.
The Courier-Journal reports Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair and Louisville Republican Julie Denton says she doesn’t want the Governor to be able to unilaterally establish a new statewide health care exchange or expand Medicaid services to more Kentuckians. Denton and other Obamacare opponents say the state can’t afford the exchange or expanded Medicaid offerings.
Despite progress toward building a state-run health insurance exchange in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear will likely have to re-issue an executive order to keep it alive.
Beshear issued an order creating the exchange earlier this year, after the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. And it’s a goal of state health officials to get the exchange protected under a law, rather than an executive order.
But Republican State Senator Tom Buford says his colleagues aren’t likely to support an exchange law.
“Probably not, in my opinion, we will probably allow the Governor to re-order the executive order again," said Buford.