FRANKFORT — More insurance companies are expressing an interest in selling policies on Kentucky's health-benefit exchange next year — a move state officials say will benefit consumers.
All five insurance companies that sold policies this year on the exchange known as Kynect want to come back for 2015, and at least one other — CareSource — wants to join them.
State officials said they are optimistic that several other insurers will file in the next few weeks to sell policies in the coming year on the exchange. Kynect is an online insurance marketplace offering health insurance plans for Kentuckians. It was created last year by Gov. Steve Beshear, as called for in the federal Affordable Care Act.
"We are pleased that additional health insurance companies are expressing interest in Kentucky's market, both on and off the exchange. Consumers benefit from the choices that come with more competition," state Insurance Commissioner Sharon P. Clark said.
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"We also appreciate the commitment we have seen from insurers who were already in the market and have chosen to continue offering plans," Clark said.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said her cabinet, which oversees Kynect, is "extremely pleased to welcome additional insurers to the exchange and the expanded options they offer to consumers."
With more choices, Haynes said, "we hope even more Kentuckians will take the time to shop and compare plans on Kynect."
Five insurance companies were on the Kentucky exchange this year: Anthem, Humana, Bluegrass Family Health, United Healthcare of Kentucky, and Kentucky Health Cooperative.
All of them except Humana provided small group market insurance on the exchange, which describes small group market as two to 50 employees. Three — Humana, Anthem and Kentucky Health Cooperative — provided individual coverage.
The insurer that has filed to join in 2015 is CareSource, based in Dayton, Ohio.
Asked why CareSource is interested in Kynect, Jonathan Copley, executive director of the company's Kentucky market, said CareSource's participation in Kynect is "an extension of our commitment to provide affordable coverage to Kentuckians who need it most."
He said CareSource is a nonprofit with a 25-year history of serving uninsured populations and has a membership of more than 1 million.
"We are expanding our reach to one of Ohio's bordering states to offer affordable health care coverage. Kynect represents a successful model on the marketplace and we are excited to offer CareSource," Copley said.
The state had set a "soft" deadline of April 1 for insurers to file to be on the exchange in 2015 but has extended it because of various inquiries.
It expects to know by early September exactly how many insurers have filed for next year's exchange.
About 421,000 Kentuckians enrolled for health-care coverage through Kynect in its first open-enrollment period, from Oct. 1 through March 31.
The next enrollment period will begin Nov. 15 for coverage effective Jan. 1.
The state has not yet projected how many more Kentuckians will enroll in Kynect next year, but the growing number of interested insurers suggests that the number will increase.
The New York Times reported last month that 8 million people signed up for coverage in 2014 under the federal health care law and that estimates put next year's national enrollment near 13 million.
Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the newspaper that insurers continue to see the new exchanges as "a good business opportunity.
"They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year."
The only way for an enrollee to get a federal subsidy — or advanced premium tax credit — on insurance is through the exchange, said Kentucky Department of Insurance spokeswoman Ronda Sloan.
Kentucky officials are not yet releasing the premiums filed by the insurance companies for the 2015 exchange, saying they must be reviewed and approved.
Monthly costs for Kynect enrollees this year ranged from $47 for older couples with no dependents to $403 for a family of four with family income of $70,000 a year.
There is no average premium for this year because there are many variables, including age and family membership, to consider, said Health and Family Services spokeswoman Jill Midkiff.