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Kentucky Sees Enrollment Boost Following Transition to Federal Exchange

More than 30,000 Kentuckians have signed up for health insurance since the state transitioned to the federal exchange on November 1. replaced the state’s previous insurance portal known as Kynect.  This time last year, more than 27,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in coverage, according to state officials. 

Melissa Grimes works for Community Action of Southern Kentucky, which serves 11 counties.  She oversees the assistors who are trained to help enrollees navigate the online process.  Grimes says it’s taking longer to enroll people under the federal exchange.

"For the average person, we could get them in and out under 30 minutes. This year, those same clients are looking at approximately an hour to go through the whole process," explained Grimes.  "I don't want to say it's harder to navigate, but it's different to navigate."

Assistors are more limited in the amount of help they can give enrollees.  For instance, they can no longer enter enrollees' information on the online application.  Grimes says many of her clients are not computer savvy or lack internet access.  She fears the longer process may prevent her agency from helping everyone who needs enrollment assistance.During a stop in Bowling Green last week, Governor Matt Bevin seemed to downplay the role of assistors.

"They're not needed.  We don't have buggy whip makers anymore either," Bevin told WKU Public Radio.  "Before Obamacare ever existed, we had 875,000 people on Medicaid.  They managed to get on Medicaid without kynectors, without the internet.  People who want to be on government assistance find a way and we have hundreds within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services who are dedicated to making sure that we provide for everyone in Kentucky.  They're able to find access just fine."

The open enrollment period ends January 31.  However, December 15 is the final day to enroll in health insurance in order for coverage to begin January 1.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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