Ky. enrollment in Obamacare plans slightly less than last year

About the same number of Kentuckians signed up for subsidized health insurance on the federal health-insurance exchange as bought coverage on the state’s Kynect exchange last year, state health officials announced Tuesday.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services said 81,155 Kentuckians enrolled in federally qualified health plans on www.healthcare.gov during the three-month enrollment period that ended Jan. 31. That was 1.8 percent less than the year before, when 82,681 Kentuckians bought a plan on Kynect.

“These numbers clearly show the transition to the federal marketplace was a success,” cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson said in a news release. “We have worked very hard to make sure this change produced minimal impact on consumers so that, at the end of the day, someone purchasing insurance through the federal marketplace was simply moving from one website to another.”

Gov. Matt Bevin pledged to close Kynect, but didn’t go quite that far. He kept the exchange for insurance companies, which wanted a state-based exchange, but shifted consumers’ enrollment to the federal exchange.

Under that setup, the federal government handles consumers’ eligibility appeals, but the state reviews insurance companies’ plan offerings and handles insurance-company grievances. Consumer grievances are handled by a state-federal partnership.

Kynect was funded by a 1 percent fee on all health-insurance policies sold in the state. Bevin said it wasn’t fair for all insurance customers to pay for an exchange that 82,000 people use.

However, his administration left the the fee in place, saying it is needed to help pay transition costs, fund the Kentucky Health Information Exchange and fund “legacy costs” of Kentucky Access, the high-risk insurance pool for which the fee was originally established – and transformed into Kynect funding by an executive order from then-Gov. Steve Beshear.

Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, hailed the enrollment numbers, but noted implicitly that the main impact of Obamacare in Kentucky has been Beshear’s expansion of Medicaid to people with household incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

“It’s
great news that enrollment in marketplace health plans this year is comparable
to last year,” Chandler said. “The idea is to get more people insured, and this news is evidence
that’s happening. Toward the same goal – getting more people covered – we are
pleased that Gov. Bevin is working to keep Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. Our
research shows that the number of Kentuckians covered by Medicaid has increased
by more than 500,000 people since 2010.”

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