ADDED 3:43 p.m. Aug. 17, 2013: The number for the call center is 1-855-459-6328 and operators will be on hand from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Saturday hours will begin Oct. 1 with open enrollment.
About 640,000 Kentuckians will soon be signing up for health insurance, and Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday a new call center answering questions about the process is an important first step.
"This is an exciting morning because today we reach an important milestone in our historic effort to bring affordable healthcare coverage to every single resident of the commonwealth of Kentucky," Beshear said at a press conference.
Beshear said some 640,000 Kentuckians will be signing up for insurance through the website KyNect.com that is supported by the call center. Beshear said roughly half will qualify for Medicaid and most of the rest will qualify for subsidized rates on health insurance.
The call center, which opened Thursday at Fortune Drive in Lexington, currently employs 60 people. Operators, contracted through Xerox, are answering questions about how to sign up for insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act. People can begin to sign up for coverage Oct. 1 via the website. No coverage becomes effective until Jan. 1. Everyone, with very limited exceptions, is required to have health insurance by March.
Beshear said Kentucky is ahead of many states in the process to access health insurance. He said the call center is important in helping people seeking insurance for the first time navigate a complicated system.
He said those who are still complaining about Obamacare should accept the fact that it is the law.
"Some people inexplicably see the decision to participate as a referendum on the popularity of our president. I don't agree with them," Beshear said. "I believe these critics are blinded by a disease that I would call knee-jerk partisan politics, and that disease clouds their vision and quite frankly I sometimes wonder if it doesn't harden their hearts a bit."
By the numbers
2: Languages available at the center, English and Spanish
60: Current call center employees
100: Center employees expected by Oct. 1
107: Languages available through a translation service
5,000: Call center daily volume when fully staffed
332,000: Those eligible for Medicaid
640,000: Kentuckians eligible for health insurance
SOURCE: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services