Health & Medicine

Poll: Uninsured Kentuckians know least about health insurance exchange

Most Kentuckians are aware of efforts to get the state's 640,000 uninsured residents to sign up for health coverage but the people who know the least are those who need it the most: the uninsured.

Seventy-seven percent of those polled by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky said they knew "some" about Kynect, the state's program to enroll the uninsured as required by the Affordable Care Act. The choices on the poll where "a lot," "some," "only a little" or "nothing at all."

But 30 percent of the uninsured knew "only a little," according to the poll to be released Friday. Thirty-two percent of those in the following categories — residents of Northern Kentucky, those living below the poverty level, or those ages 18 to 29 without a high school degree — knew "nothing at all" about Kynect.

The foundation is a Louisville-based non-profit with a mission of addressing the unmet health needs of the state. The foundation interviewed 1,551 adults for the poll between Oct. 25 and Nov. 26, so people have had two additional months to obtain information about Kynect.

State and federal health officials have said that reaching the young and those who will pay for private insurance is key to the long-term financial viability of the Affordable Care Act.

As of Thursday, according to the state, 176,000 Kentuckians have signed up for health insurance.

So far 42,000 have signed up for private insurance, or roughly 14 percent of the total number of uninsured Kentuckians.

That compares to 134,000, or 44 percent of those eligible, who have signed up for Medicaid.

Carrie Banahan, executive director of the Office of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, which operates Kynect, said the state is making extra efforts to reach out to younger people. She said the state has "added several new characters to our animated campaign that reflect this younger demographic." Those ads will continue to run until the enrollment deadline, March 31. She said the state also continues to identify community events that reach the young and other target audiences.

The state has been reaching out to the uninsured since last summer. Kentucky was among 17 states that chose to create their own system of enrollment. Kentucky's system, Kynect, has not been plagued by the technical issues of, the federal exchange for states that didn't create their own systems.

The Affordable Care Act requires every American to sign up for health insurance coverage either through a private insurance company or, for those whose who meet income requirements, through the federal Medicaid program.

The law offered states the chance to expand the eligibility requirements for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Kentucky was one of 24 states, and the only Southern state, to expand Medicaid, which is free to those who are eligible.

According to the state, of the 176,000 people signed up for health insurance in Kentucky, 134,000 enrolled in Medicaid. That is about 44 percent of the estimated 308,000 who are eligible for Medicaid.

Seventy-nine percent of Kentuckians support expanded Medicaid, according to a second poll to be released Friday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. According to the poll, 87 percent of Kentuckians believe it is "very important" or "somewhat important" to provide Medicaid coverage for low-income people.

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