KENTUCKY (1/5/14) - The state’s 14-year-old high-risk insurance pool—called Kentucky Access—closed its doors on Dec. 31 to make way for mandatory health insurance coverage effective Jan. 1 under the federal Affordable Care Act. But there is still time for those who were covered by Kentucky Access to get insured.
That is because open enrollment through “kynect”--the state’s new health insurance exchange-- will continue through March 31, 2014, according to the Kentucky Access web site. (Individuals who needed coverage by Jan. 1, through kynect or directly through an insurer, were instructed by Kentucky Access to enroll no later than Dec. 15.) That gives individuals without employer-sponsored coverage or Medicare a few more months to compare their options by going to the kynect web site at kynect.ky.gov, or by calling kynect toll-free at 1-855-4kynect (1-855-459-6328).
One thing is absolutely certain: individuals with high-cost medical conditions for whom Kentucky Access was designed should not let their coverage lapse. Continuity of care through Kentucky Access will only be approved under limited circumstances, and for a very limited time, so everyone must find new coverage.
That is where kynect comes in. The highly-praised kynect site will help individuals determine if they are eligible for discounted private insurance or Medicaid. It will help folks choose a plan that works for them and their family.
Let’s step back for a moment and look at what precipitated these changes. Kentucky Access’ closure was expedited by the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, which requires insurers to enroll individuals regardless of their health status. The mandate did away with the need for Kentucky Access’ guaranteed individual coverage, approved by the 2000 Kentucky General Assembly with the passage of House Bill 517.
I supported the creation of Kentucky Access in 2000 as part of a bipartisan push to help citizens obtain insurance coverage that they would otherwise not be able to get. It was the only health insurance option for hundreds of seriously-ill Kentuckians at a time when private insurers were leaving the state’s individual market in droves. And it was well-funded with client premiums, assessments on insurers, and $230 million in state tobacco settlement dollars since opening for business in 2001.
According to the Kentucky Department of Insurance, the program had 4,800 Kentuckians insured near its peak.
Essentially, the program’s creation was the result of industry and government coming together to address the problem of insurance inaccessibility. It was a new idea for Kentucky made possible by necessity and political will. And it worked well.
Now, that availability of otherwise unaffordable and inaccessible coverage is continuing under the ACA, which will provide coverage for thousands who were previously uninsured, including those with or without high-cost conditions. While many are “holding their breath” about the outcome of the ACA I am sure folks who need coverage and didn’t have it before are hoping for the best.
This week signals the beginning of the 2014 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly—a 60 legislative-day session that will lead to the passage of a state budget for the next two years and tackling of some other major policy issues. We will get into more of that in my next column.
Stay warm, and stay informed of what’s happening in your Kentucky General Assembly over the next several weeks. And, as always, have a great week ahead.
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