Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 11:23 pm
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.
The vast majority of Kentucky's health benefit exchange enrollees are signing up for coverage under Medicaid.
Numbers released Thursday by the state show 80 percent of those who have signed up for medical coverage through Kentucky's benefit exchange have done so through the expanded Medicaid program. The remaining 20 percent will get coverage through private insurance companies.
Kentucky has enrolled nearly 300,000 people so far in its health exchange, known as Kynect. Deputy Executive Director Bill Nold says officials are pleased with the number of young Kentuckians who have signed up through the exchange.
"If you look at our total enrollment, about 48 percent are under the age of 35," Nold said.
Health exchange operators throughout the nation have been concerned that not enough younger, healthier people would sign up for coverage before the March 31 deadline.
Those younger customers are needed to subsidize health care for older and less healthy individuals.
Sign Up Saturday
To avoid a tax penalty in 2015, people must have signed up for insurance by the end of March, or at least be insured for nine months of the year.
A major deadline looms at the end of the month for Kentuckians still seeking health insurance.
March 31 is the last day until November to sign up for insurance on Kynect, the state’s online health exchange.
"They would not be able to enroll in coverage again until the next open enrollment period which, right now, we understand to be starting November 15 for effective dates of coverage of January 1, 2015," explains Janie Miller, CEO of Kentucky Health Cooperative. "So basically for the remainder of this year they would not be able to get coverage for themselves or their family."
There will be exceptions for qualifying events such as marriage or job changes.
According to the state, 279,601 people had obtained health coverage on the exchange, including 222,719 individuals who enrolled in Medicaid and 56,882 individuals who picked up private insurance as of last Friday.
Interview with Susan Zepeda, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
An annual statewide poll shows that one-quarter of Kentucky adults are without health insurance.
The Kentucky Health Issues Poll is funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. That group's President and CEO, Susan Zepeda, says an even higher number of adults in the commonwealth was without coverage for at least part of 2013.
"Three in ten Kentucky adults were uninsured at some point in the last 12 months, which really underscores the need for helping people get access to insurance," Dr. Zepeda told WKU Public Radio.
Zepeda says the recent poll is important because it sets a baseline for how many Kentuckians have health insurance, and from what sources, ahead of the broader impacts of the federal Affordable Care Act.
That baseline, Zepeda says, will help policy analysts determine how much effect the changes related to the ACA are having on individuals and states.
Governor Beshear says most of Kentucky’s uninsured residents would qualify for discounts on health insurance purchased on the state’s new health exchange. Speaking Tuesday in Frankfort, said at least 80 percent of the commonwealth’s uninsured would get some kind of financial assistance to help them get insurance coverage.
The new health exchange was put into motion following the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act. It serves as an online marketplace where consumers can choose state-approved insurance plans and compare coverage and costs.
Enrollment in the Kentucky exchange begins October 1.
Government officials have said an estimated 332,000 uninsured Kentuckians would be eligible to receive coverage through the new exchange. The Courier-Journal reports Beshear said Tuesday that a family of four earning $70,000 a year could buy a health plan for a little over $400 a month.
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.
A new report shows fewer workers in Kentucky and Indiana are getting health insurance through their jobs. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says 59.5 percent of Kentuckians under the age of 65 received health insurance through their job or a family member’s job in 2011. That’s a drop of more than 9 percent from 2000.
In Indiana, 63 percent of those under 65 got health insurance through jobs in 2011, down nearly 15 percent from 2000.
Tennessee saw a 10 percent drop over that same time period.
Nationwide, the report found that 11.5 million fewer Americans get insurance through the workplace.
You can see the complete Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report here.