Covering Kentucky

Apr 22, 2014 5:38 PM

Beshear: 413,000 Sign Up For Health Care In Ky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Beth Moore left her job - and her health insurance - to start her own company in January.

In March, while visiting Texas, she had an emergency appendectomy followed by a nasty bout with pneumonia that added up to more than $30,000 in medical bills.

But Moore was one of 413,410 Kentuckians who signed up for free or subsidized health insurance through kynect, Kentucky's state-run health insurance marketplace made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act. So far, the most she has paid for her treatment is $150.

"If I had not had insurance (it) would have been catastrophic for me," Moore said. "I'm very grateful that I am a resident of Kentucky and that this was an option for me."

Moore told her story alongside Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and other state officials Tuesday who were celebrating the end of the open-enrollment period of Kentucky's health insurance marketplace. While signups on the federal website were delayed by numerous technical glitches, Kentucky's system worked smoothly. At its peak, Beshear said, the state's website processed more than 7,000 applications per day.

The final number is likely to grow because workers are still processing paper applications. Kynect's next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15.

"We're going to keep enrolling people until everybody in Kentucky who needs health coverage has it," Beshear said.

About 80 percent of those 413,410 people have their health insurance through Medicaid, meaning the state and federal government pays for their health care. The other 20 percent purchased private plans, but - thanks to a government subsidy - at a discounted rate.

But the Affordable Care Act's impact on Kentuckians who already have insurance is a different story. A survey of six Kentucky insurance brokers released earlier this month by Morgan Stanley showed that individual health insurance premiums in Kentucky have increased 29 percent in 2014.

"We expect the increases are largely due to the (Affordable Care Act)," the authors wrote.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell cited the study in an op-ed released Monday, where the five-term senator seeking re-election in November declared "Obamacare is no Kentucky success story."

"Many are being forced to pay higher premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs often for a plan that offers less access to hospitals and their favorite doctor," McConnell wrote.

And state Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, noted state officials still don't know how they will pay for the state's growing Medicaid rolls. The federal government has pledged to pay the full cost of expansion for the first few years, followed by no less than 90 percent.

"It's not a surprise you can sign people up for something that is free," she said. "Ultimately we will have to figure out how the state will come up with the money to pay for the expansion. That's a question that remains completely unaddressed."

Beshear dismissed that criticism, saying "these critics continue apparently to sit in their own echo chambers and talk to each other."

"It has become popular to blame the rain on the Affordable Care Act," he said. "Health care costs have slowed down considerably over the last couple of years. Now, can I say that the Affordable Care Act caused all of that? No. The same as the opponents can't say that somebody's increase in premiums is caused by the Affordable Care Act."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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