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.
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.
The Department of Health and Human Services released insurance premium prices for federally-run exchanges today, including Tennessee, showing premiums in some states are lower than initially estimated.
But Kentucky’s exchange called kynect is state-run and wasn’t on that list.
Kynect has released the actual costs and range of plans for certain hypothetical situations. Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokesperson Gwenda Bond says people can find out their individual costs beginning Oct. 1, which is the first day to apply for open enrollment.
Bond says all but 50,000 of the more than 600,000 uninsured Kentuckians will qualify for either the Medicaid expansion or premium subsidies through kynect.