Health care enrollment operates smoothly in Kentucky, but federal website remains problematic

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comOctober 21, 2013 

  • Want more information?

    Go to KyNect.Ky.gov or call 1-855-459-6328, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. ET Mon.-Fri. or 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.

Kentucky's state-run implementation of health care reform, Kynect, has enrolled 15,000 people in insurance programs while the federal effort has been hampered by technical problems.

At a news conference Monday, President Barack Obama said he was frustrated with the issues that have plagued the federal system run through Healthcare.gov.

But in Kentucky, things appear to be running smoothly.

Kentucky was one of 17 states that decided to create its own health insurance marketplace known as an exchange. The mostly web-based program is centered at Kynect.Ky.gov, where Kentuckians register to be enrolled in health insurance and explore their options.

"We're incredibly proud of the continued success of Kynect, which has helped thousands of Kentuckians find affordable health coverage, many of them for the first time," Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday in a written statement. "In the first two weeks of operation alone, an average of 1,000 Kentuckians enrolled in new health coverage each day — which made Kentucky's health benefit exchange among the nation's most reliable and successful."

Beshear added that Kynect, pronounced "connect," was "a national model for success."

As of Monday morning, 272,339 people had visited the Kynect website, viewing more than 6 million pages, according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Also, 241,000 people entered their personal information to see whether they qualified for subsidies, discounts or government-funded programs such Medicaid.

Beshear said that level of participation indicated the pent-up demand for health care.

Cabinet spokeswoman Gwenda Bond said creating a state exchange allowed Kentucky to take advantage of expertise that was in place and collaborate with health advocates and others, such as insurance agents, who would be using the system. It also provided, she said, "full access to the cabinet's experienced IT (information technology) staff, who have provided close oversight of the technical side of the program."

Kentucky had some technical issues when the website went live Oct. 1. Officials said it was because of a surge of activity as people rushed to explore their options. Those glitches were resolved by the end of the day.

The federal exchange, however, has continued to have serious technical problems that have kept many people from enrolling.

Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at Kaiser Family Foundation, said Kentucky was doing "pretty darn good" and led many states in the number of people who have enrolled. The key to success in Kentucky seems to be that the website has been running smoothly.

But, she said, while 15,000 enrollees is a success, there is "still a long way to go." There are about 640,000 uninsured people in Kentucky.

Tolbert said there still were a lot of people in Kentucky and around the country who don't understand the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

Kentucky needs to make sure that trained advocates, called navigators, are getting out into communities to explain the program if it truly is going to succeed, she said.

Beshear also reiterated that the Affordable Care Act was "a huge change in the way health care works in our country, and the transition will not be immediate."

"I know that in our 24-hour-news world, we all want to see immediate results," he said. "But a change this massive will take time."

The troubled federal system and the state exchange were created as part of the Affordable Care Act. Under the law, every American needs to be enrolled in a health insurance program. Those enrolling in the state or federal programs have until March 31 to sign up for insurance or face a penalty. Those signing up by Dec. 15 will have insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1.


Want more information?

Go to KyNect.Ky.gov or call 1-855-459-6328, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. ET Mon.-Fri. or 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.


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

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