First day of Kentucky health care program one of Beshear's 'most exciting'

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comOctober 2, 2013 

Prasad Yarlagedda, left, showed Gov. Steve Beshear on Oct. 2, 2013, how the new Kynect health exchange kiosks worked at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Most Lexington hospitals signed up to inform people about their health insurance options. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

Comparing congressmen who obstruct government funding because of the newly imposed Affordable Care Act to "9-year-olds in a food fight," Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday that nearly 90,000 Kentuckians had explored health care options at the state's website, Kynect.ky.gov.

Technical glitches on the website marred Tuesday's first day of open enrollment, making it difficult for some people to sign up for a policy. About 2,000 people signed up for coverage.

By the end of the business day Wednesday, 20,000 more people had visited the website and an additional 1,000 had enrolled.

But Beshear said many people were able to explore their health care options through the website, making it "one of the most exciting days I have had since I have been governor."

Beshear choked up a bit during his first public appearance since Kentucky's health care program went into effect. At a news conference Wednesday at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, there was a catch in Beshear's voice after he talked about how improved health care will make a real difference in the lives of the 640,000 Kentuckians currently uninsured.

"I am proud to be a part of it," he said.

A computer kiosk offering direct access to Kynect.ky.gov, one of 150 to around the state, was unveiled in the hospital lobby.

Tuesday's website glitches have been repaired, with technicians restoring Kynect.ky.gov to full functioning by 3 p.m. Tuesday, and they worked through the night to make sure other problems didn't arise, said Audrey Haynes, head of the state Department for Health and Family Services.

The system had been tested before going live Tuesday, but the volume of users proved overwhelming, she said.

Dr. Michael Karpf, UK's executive vice president for health affairs, said the hospital would continue to treat the uninsured but would help them sign up for insurance if they are eligible under the new state program.

When asked why Kentucky hasn't released a complete array of rates as some other states have, Haynes said she "wasn't sure how those states were able to release rates."

What people will pay, she said, is dependent on too many variables — age, where a person lives, whether a person smokes, how many people are in their household and which company and level of insurance they pick — for a list of "sticker prices" to have any value to consumers.

Beshear said 92 percent of Kentuckians would receive payment assistance of some kind.

During the news conference, Beshear was part politician and part pitchman as he repeatedly spelled out the web address — "K-Y-N-E-C-T dot K-Y dot G-O-V" — and recited the phone number for information — 1-855-459-6328.

The opening of Kynect, pronounced "connect," has put Beshear and the state in the national spotlight. Kentucky is one of only 17 states — and the only Southern state — to create state-based health care programs.

After the news conference, Beshear hustled off to do an interview with CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, who was in Lexington reporting for a special program on health care reform.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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