The Kentucky Health Cooperative touts itself as a new kind of health insurance from a new kind of insurance company.
It's a non-profit based in Louisville and the board of directors is comprised mostly of customers. Communications Director Susan Dunlap says the co-op is responsible only to members.
"Any surplus revenues that are earned would not go back to shareholders, as would be the case for a publicly traded company," explains Dunlap. "In that case, surplus funds would go back to improving member health benefits, it might be used to reduce premium levels, or be invested in programs intended to improve health care quality that the members would benefit from."
Dunlap says the co-op offers coverage in all 120 counties of the state and has a national network of providers through First Health, as well as contract with UK Healthcare.
Kentucky is one of 24 states that created co-ops under the Affordable Care Act and received millions of dollars in federal loans for start-up and operational costs.
Dunlap says she isn't sure how many Kentuckians have signed up for the co-op since enrollment began last week. The Kentucky Health Cooperative can be accessed on the state's health exchange website Kynect.
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.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Haynes visited the Barren River District Health Department to show off a new kiosk where the uninsured can sign up for heath coverage.
The Barren River District Health Department will soon be one of the places where the uninsured can sign up for health coverage.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear was at the health department Wednesday, unveiling a new kiosk where the uninsured can log on to the kynect website, which went live on Tuesday. The site allows people to browse private insurance plans and see whether they qualify for Medicaid or federal subsidies. Beshear called Tuesday “the first day of the rest of our lives when it comes to health care.”
"If there is one message that I can give to every Kentuckian it's 'check this out,' Beshear advised. "It doesn't matter if you like the President or not, it doesn't matter whether you like me or not. It's about you, it's about your families."
Governor Beshear used the Bowling Green stop to tout several aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for preventive care and pre-existing conditions.
The Barren River District Health Department is one of 150 locations statewide that will eventually have a kiosk. Director Dennis Chaney anticipates the kiosk will be used a lot.
“Particularly in our eight-county service area, we have over 21,000 folks that have been identified as being eligible under the Medicaid expansion and almost another 21,000 of our residents will be eligible for Kynect, and so our work is cut out for us," explained Chaney.
Health Department staff will undergo training and become state certified before helping people enroll on Kentucky’s health exchange.
Tuesday was the inaugural day for Kentucky's Health Benefits Exchange.
The Kynect website went live at 12 a.m. Tuesday, and according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 24,000 people browsed to see what they might be eligible for and over 1,000 applications were processed by 9:30 a.m.
As expected, there have been a some hiccups along the way.
"The high volume of traffic is causing a few technical glitches, but we have an IT command center fully staffed who are working diligently to iron out any issues. People can continue to browse the site, but we encourage any visitors who experience problems to check back later to begin their application process," said Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
"There will be a message on the site to provide an update as we work to ensure everything is running smoothly. This surge of early applications demonstrates the pent up demand for quality health coverage for many Kentuckians, who will be able to have that coverage beginning January 1, 2014, because of the ACA."
Kentucky's Health Benefits Exchange can be accessed at kynect.ky.gov.