Kynect

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With the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments Tuesday about the future of the Affordable Care Act, the upcoming decision will have a major impact on the health of Kentuckians. 

Kentucky ranks 3rd in the nation for the number of adults with high cholesterol, 4th in the number of obese children, and 6th in the number of obese adults.

The state ranks 7th in the number of adults with Type 2 diabetes.

Those are among the findings in the report 2020s Most Overweight and Obese States in America by the personal finance website WalletHub. 


Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky is re-launching its online health exchange known as Kynect to provide new features and services, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday.  

The original Kynect was launched in 2013 under Beshear's father, Gov. Steve Beshear, and allowed the expansion of Medicaid to some 400,000 Kentuckians. 

The new version of the online portal will allow people to apply for Medicaid and enroll in health insurance on the federal exchange.

J. Tyler Franklin

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday that Kentucky will transition back to a state-based health insurance exchange, known as Kynect.

In 2017, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin dismantled Kynect, and Kentuckians had to start purchasing health coverage on the federal exchange instead. That federal program comes with about a 3% user fee, which Beshear said cost people in Kentucky $9.8 million in 2018.

“In the last four years we moved backwards on health care,” Beshear said. “We’ve been paying more, over the last four years, to get less.”

Lisa Autry

As the U.S. Senate this week voted to hold debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear accused some Republican politicians of “religious hypocrisy.”

Beshear said some lawmakers have turned their backs on people who need health care. The former Democratic governor said it’s unfortunate that elected leaders take advantage of religion and use it as a political tool.

"When a politician running for office talks in religious terms people believe them and think that's a good person, and vote for them.  The problem is that a lot of these guys and gals preach like the prophets when they're running and govern like Pontius Pilate when they're serving," Beshear told WKU Public Radio. "What kind of Christian principles is it when you want to throw 22 million people off health care coverage? There may be problems with the Affordable Care Act, and we need to fix them, but the answer isn't to turn millions of people out of the health care they desperately need."

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Gov. Matt Bevin can’t repeal a 1 percent tax he said was one reason to dismantle the state health insurance exchange before he was elected in 2015. So he’s planning to work with the legislature next session to remove the tax, which funded the now-defunct Kynect.

The tax was created to initially fund Kentucky’s high risk insurance pool back in 2000. When former governor Steve Beshear decided to go on its own to create Kynect under the Affordable Care Act, the tax then went to pay for its creation and maintenance.

Healthcare.gov Enrollment Deadline Extended To Dec. 19

Dec 16, 2016
healthcare.gov

The deadline to sign up for Healthcare.gov coverage has been extended to Monday, Dec. 19 at 11:59 p.m. The federal government made the announcement Thursday night, citing a high volume of people who have left requests to get enrolled.

The deadline is for coverage starting Jan. 1. The final deadline is March 1 for coverage starting April 1. The Affordable Care Act allows for a two-month grace period that consumers can go without health insurance and not receive a tax penalty.

healthcare.gov

Sharon Bush spent 30 minutes on Tuesday helping a client sign up for an email account. The email address is a necessary step in signing up for health insurance through Healthcare.gov.

Bush didn’t realized that the email requirement for the federal exchange would take up so much time.

“In southeastern Kentucky, there are a lot of people who don’t have and/or use technology,” Bush said. “[The client] is a grandmother in her early 60s, and she just said, ‘I have two granddaughters and they use it a lot.’”

Bush works in Manchester, Kentucky, at Grace Community Health Center, where she helps people sign up for health insurance. She’s a former Kynector, a person paid by the state to assist people with enrollment. She helped people last year find health insurance through Kynect and is now helping people sign up on the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.

In early October, Gov. Matt Bevin was given approval by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to dismantle the state-based insurance portal, Kynect, leaving Kentuckians searching for insurance to go through the federal portal, Healthcare.gov.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentuckians wanting to buy health insurance on the federal exchange will have fewer options and higher costs.

Starting Tuesday, enrollees will apply for coverage at www.healthcare.gov instead of the state-based exchange known as Kynect.  Anthem will be the only insurance provider, and the company will offer customers four plans.

Tonya Wooton works for Community Action of Southern Kentucky, and helps enrollees navigate the online application process. She says while premium increases are expected, they should be offset by subsidies.

"People also need to understand that if premiums increase and you're getting payment assistance, then you're payment assistance is also going to increase, so you may not feel it as much as you think you will," Wooton told WKU Public Radio.

Discounts and payment assistance are based on income.

Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s administration says the Affordable Care Act has caused insurers to pull out of exchange markets across the country, with those that stayed offering higher rates.

Open enrollment on the federal exchange is November 1-January 31, 2017.  Consumers must enroll in a plan by December 15 if they want coverage to begin January 1.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentuckians trying to get health insurance through the state-based marketplace will use healthcare.gov instead of Kynect starting Nov. 1.

Personal information of those who previously used Kynect to get insurance will not be transferred to the federal platform, so consumers will have to reapply on the federal website.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration says the move will save the state about $10 million per year in operating costs.

“Health insurance is a vital piece of maintaining health and well-being,” said Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson in a statement. “We want to make sure Kentuckians interested in purchasing a qualified health plan know where to shop. Anyone with questions or who encounters difficulty with enrollment is encouraged to contact a call center for assistance.”

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Kentuckians who’ve purchased health insurance via Kynect will have to re-enroll on the federal exchange starting Nov. 1.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday told Gov. Matt Bevin that all major milestones for the switch had been met. As of this year, 74,640 people were enrolled via the state health care exchange, Kynect.

This means if you currently have coverage that was acquired on the state exchange, you will have to re-enroll on the federal exchange at healthcare.gov. Officials said that’s due to consumer information not being transferred from Kynect. 

Adam Meier, Bevin’s chief of staff for policy, said people can be screened for Medicaid eligibility or a plan on the federal exchange via the Benefind website, which operates as the umbrella portal for Kentuckians to apply for nearly all entitlement services.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration says HealthCare.gov will be up and running in Kentucky in time for Kynect customers to reapply for their health insurance later this year.

But roughly one month from the beginning of open enrollment on Nov. 1, some of those who work on the ground to help Kentuckians sign up for coverage are concerned about whether exchange customers will know when, where and how to re-enroll. That’s in part because education and outreach efforts have thus far been minimal.

Kentucky is moving from its state-based marketplace to the federal HealthCare.gov this year, after Bevin decided to dismantle Kynect and roll back Medicaid expansion in the state. Consumers must reapply this year for 2017 coverage even if they were auto-enrolled last year because eligibility information from Kynect won’t be transferred to the federal system.

The window for open enrollment is Nov. 1 until Dec. 15. Amanda Stamper, press secretary for Bevin administration, said they’ve hit milestones to make the switch in time.

The percentage of Kentucky workers enrolled in high-deductible health insurance plans increased by nearly six times between 2006 and 2014.  A report released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky shows the growth of those plans is nationwide. 

Foundation CEO Susan Zepeda says consumers typically choose high-deductible plans in exchange for lower monthly premiums.

"When people are having to pay those first dollars before their health plans kick in, it does make them more prudent consumers when they have a choice in the health care that they seek out," Zepada told WKU Public Radio.

Zepeda says consumers on high-deductible plans also tend to use fewer preventive services such as vaccinations and screenings, which may save money in the long run. 

Most of the state’s nearly 94,000 Kynect enrollees have chosen plans with high-deductibles.  The report did not address what may happen if Kentucky transitions to the federal health care exchange.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new, wide-ranging health poll shows that opinion remains split on the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, with most unfavorable opinions coming from northern and western parts of the state. Those areas also happen to have the highest rates of uninsured in the state.

Susan Zepeda is president of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which conducts the annual poll along with Cincinnati-based Interact for Health.

“Overall, what we’re finding with these reports is that an increasing number of Kentuckians have health insurance, but many are still delaying or simply can’t afford necessary health care,” Zepeda said.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll showed that just 41 percent of Kentuckians have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Bevin administration says it has met the June 1 deadline of demonstrating that it’s made adequate progress in Kentucky’s transition from the state health insurance exchange Kynect, to the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.

Doug Hogan, communications director for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the state has “met milestone requirements ahead of schedule,” but refused to comment on details of what criteria the state has accomplished.

According to a March 15 letter sent to state officials by Kevin Counihan with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government has to “determine whether sufficient progress has been made to proceed with leveraging the federal platform” for the upcoming year.

CMS officials refused to comment on details of Kentucky’s transition to the federal exchange.

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Health insurance companies in Kentucky want to increase rates by an average of 17 percent next year.

The Kentucky Department of Insurance posted rate requests from the state's major insurance carriers on Wednesday. They include plans for individuals and small groups.

These are not premium increases. The base rate is one of several factors used to determine a person's premium, including age, sex and where a person lives. Individual premiums will vary.

State officials blame some of the increases on the failure of the Kentucky Health Cooperative. Many of the company's high-risk customers were picked up by other companies, leading to higher rates.

The rate requests cover plans sold on and off kynect, the state's health insurance exchange. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin plans to dismantle kynect by the end of this year.

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