Health & Medicine

New Fayette Mall store offers health care insurance through Kynect

Gov. Steve Beshear was on hand Nov. 13, for the opening of a storefront at the Fayette Mall where Kentuckians could sign up for health insurance through Kynect, the state's exchange established under the Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Steve Beshear was on hand Nov. 13, for the opening of a storefront at the Fayette Mall where Kentuckians could sign up for health insurance through Kynect, the state's exchange established under the Affordable Care Act. Herald-Leader

Enter Fayette Mall near P.F. Chang's and you walk by the expected offerings of kids' clothing stores, boot stores and cellphone kiosks.

But then you'll see the Kynect storefront, where you can sign up for health insurance.

"This storefront is one more way that Kynect is reaching out to individuals who are in the market for affordable health insurance," Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday when the store opened.

Although the Kynect store will be open Friday with staff available to answer questions, enrollment through Kynect (pronounced connect) doesn't begin until Saturday. This is the second year of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, and it runs through Feb. 15.

The store is leased through that date for a total of $75,000, said Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. That's comparable to the cost of one week of statewide television advertising, she said. The cost includes construction and equipment in addition to rental of the space.

The lease is part of the $6.9 million in federal funds allocated to Kentucky to advertise and market its program under the Affordable Care Act.

Last year, Kentucky, hailed as a success story in the shaky first months of the law's roll-out, enrolled more than 521,000 people in health insurance programs.

On Thursday, there were a few curious glances from mall walkers, who noticed the governor and his security team of tall men wearing earpieces, surrounded by media.

The mall is where all kinds of people are, especially during the holidays, so it makes sense to offer a place for people to enroll there, the governor said.

It allows people to "give the gift of health," he said.

The store was inspired by successful efforts in Colorado and Connecticut, Beshear said. With a faux hot-air balloon, complete with basket, servings as a children's play space, the storefront has comfy seating and several stations where people may confer with health insurance agents or other staff about health-care options.

Public health workers from Fayette County will be available several times a month to offer flu shots, Beshear said.

Dr. Rice Leach, Fayette County's public health commissioner, was at the opening. Overall, the Affordable Care Act has helped people get health care and has boosted the number of patients at public health clinics, Leach said. Being able to sign up at the mall just made sense, he said.

Leach, who often talks of his early public health work on Indian reservations, said he remembers signing people up for insurance at trading posts.

Gwyn Artz was one of the first people served at the new store. She moved to Kentucky from California and wanted to know how hard it would be to switch her health coverage. After a short conversation with one of the staffers, she was sold on the idea of the storefront.

"This is great," she said minutes after getting her questions answered and moving on to do some shopping. "I'll be back on Nov. 15."

Although there has been some talk since last week's mid-term elections about the possibility of repealing of the Affordable Care Act or a major restructuring, Beshear said he wasn't concerned.

"I'm going to let that Washington-speak stay in Washington," he said. "We have a tool here in Kentucky in the Affordable Care Act that is going to allow us to make some transformative changes in our population."

"I am confident we are not going to see an overall repeal of the Affordable Care Act," he said, because there aren't enough votes to override a presidential veto, and President Barack Obama has expressed continued support of the measure.

Kentucky has tracked how the newly insured have been using health care, Beshear said. Adult preventive services, including well visits and flu shots, are up 37 percent over last year. Adult dental visits are up 33 percent, and breast cancer screenings are up 20 percent, he said.

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