Gov. Steve Beshear urged all Kentuckians, especially the 640,000 without health insurance, to explore their health insurance options before open enrollment in the state-sanctioned plans begins Oct. 1.
During a news conference Tuesday, Beshear did not lay out rates for the health insurance plans, saying too many variables come into play.
"The rate is sort of like a sticker price," he said. "The sticker price isn't the final price."
Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans, with very limited exceptions, are required to sign up for health care or face a fine. Kentucky has created a website, KyNect.Ky.gov, a call center and is training 5,400 people to help residents determine the best policy for them and how to enroll.
Plans become effective on Jan. 1 for those who sign up before Dec. 15, Beshear said. The enrollment period ends March 1, 2014.
According to state officials, 2,343 calls have been received at the call center since it began operation Aug. 15.
Age, the number of people on your policy, where you live and whether you use tobacco are factors in determining individual rates, he said. Income is used to determine whether individuals get a subsidy to help cover their premiums.
But, Beshear said, people will need to educate themselves and their families about the plans to determine what policy fits their needs.
Five companies — Anthem, UnitedHealthcare, Humana, Bluegrass Family Health and the Kentucky Heath Cooperative — are offering insurance policies. People can choose from four levels of service, described as "medal plans" because they are identified as bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
About 308,000 low-income Kentuckians will qualify for Medicaid, which is essentially free health care, Beshear said, adding that 85 percent of the remaining 332,000 Kentuckians who are uninsured will qualify for subsidized rates. Residents might be surprised to find they qualify for subsidies, he said. For example, an individual making $45,960 a year qualifies for a subsidized rate.
"Some like to categorize the uninsured as freeloaders," said Beshear. But, he added, many are working and not able to afford insurance.
Beshear gave the following examples of what some families might pay.
■ A 22-year-old woman who doesn't smoke and makes $20,000 a year could pay a minimum of $51 a month.
■ A 50-year-old man who smokes and makes $30,000 could pay a minimum of $160 a month.
■ A family of four, non-smokers, who makes $70,000 could pay a minimum of $403 a month.
■ A 32-year-old single mom, who makes $40,000 a year, could pay a minimum of $133 a month.
Connect with KyNect
To learn more about health insurance plans available to Kentuckians go to KyNect.Ky.Gov or call 1-855-459-6328.
The call center operators can answer questions about how to obtain insurance and insurance options. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Saturday hours will begin Oct. 1 with open enrollment.
Tobacco users pay more for health insurance
Kentuckians who smoke or chew tobacco will have to pay up to a 40 percent surcharge on their health insurance.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the use of tobacco is one of thee factors in determining an individual health insurance rate along with age and where someone lives. Federal rules allow tobacco users to be charged up to 50 percent more of the total premium for their health insurance. States had the option of setting their own rates, said Sharon P. Clark, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Insurance, and Kentucky set the ceiling on the tobacco surcharge at 40 percent.
Tobacco users are asked to identify themselves on their health insurance application, she said.
The surcharge is applied even when people are getting health insurance at a subsidized rate, she said. The surcharge applies only to people paying for private insurance. People qualifying for Medicaid, however, are not subject to the rule. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of adult Kentuckians smoke, ranking the commonwealth 49th among all states for non-smokers.
Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.