Health & Medicine

Kentucky health insurance exchange steadily signing people up before deadline

Uninsured Kentuckians must sign up for health insurance by Dec. 23 in order to have coverage on Jan. 1.

That is the earliest possible date to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which requires nearly every American to sign up for health insurance or face a penalty.

Kentucky had about 640,000 uninsured when the enrollment began Oct. 1. Since then about 100,000 have signed up to pay for private insurance or to receive government-funded coverage through Medicaid.

An additional 10,000 people have been approved for subsidized premiums but have not yet picked a health insurance plan, said Carrie Banahan, the executive director of Kentucky's Health Benefit Exchange.

Those signing up for private insurance must also pay their premiums for coverage to be effective.

Although individual deadlines may vary, state officials recommend paying the first premium by Jan. 1.

Kentucky has received national praise for its enrollment efforts through Kynect.Ky.Gov. Enrollment has steadily increased, rising to about 3,000 a day, said Gwenda Bond, spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The call center that provides assistance has added 50 operators for a total of 150, said Bond.

By comparison, the national website, HealthCare.Gov, has been plagued with technical problems. That website is handling enrollment for states that opted not to create individual programs.

Banahan said she expects that the state's pace of enrollment will continue to accelerate.

Since Dec. 15, state workers have been able to sign up Medicaid recipients when they come into state offices to sign up for other services, such as food stamps. She said that alternative wasn't available when Kynect launched because about 3,000 state employees had to be trained to use the system.

So far, she said, 75 percent of those who have signed up for insurance in Kentucky have been eligible for Medicaid coverage.

The number of people signing up for private insurance has been on the increase in the last two weeks, she said, mostly because people were waiting to sign up until the deadline for premium payment drew near.

There is a rolling schedule of when other policies become active. The enrollment process ends March 31.

more information

Affordable Care Act: Also known as Obamacare, it is a law that requires every American to sign up for health insurance by March 31, 2014, or face a penalty.

Kynect.Ky.Gov: The website, or exchange, for Kentuckians to enroll in insurance. Since it started enrollment on Oct. 1, about 100,000 Kentuckians have enrolled.

To learn more, go to Kynect.Ky.Gov or call 1-855-459-6328.

Also check with your local library or health department to see if they have "navigators" who can help with the process. Those eligible for Medicaid can sign up in person at Department for Community Based Services offices.

HealthCare.Gov: It is the federal website being used by most states to comply with the federal law and enroll those with health insurance in new policies. Early on it was hindered by technical glitches and enrolled fewer than 25,000 Americans in the first month.