Tens of thousands of Kentuckians have visited Kynect, Kentucky’s online health care exchange, since it opened Tuesday despite some technical glitches.
During a visit to Ashland on Wednesday to promote the rollout of the Affordable Care Act exchange, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson attributed the high volume to “pent up demand” for affordable health insurance.
“We are now reaching out and are going to be providing health care of a comprehensive nature at an affordable price to every citizen of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Abramson said, “All we’re asking you to do is to try it. There is so much misinformation floating around, we have to get people to look at the facts,” he said.
Abramson was at the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department, where a new Kynect kiosk was installed. The kiosk provides computer access to Kynect and will be staffed by a trained health department employee. It is one of 150 being installed statewide in an effort to help the uninsured sign up.
According to Gov. Steve Beshear’s office, as of 7 a.m. Wednesday more than 88,119 unique website visitors had clicked on kynect.ky.gov and viewed more than 1 million web pages. Of those visitors, 82,558 had conducted prescreenings to determine qualifications for subsidies or Medicaid and 7,548 applications for health coverage had been started, with 4,746 completed.
There are an estimated 640,000 Kentuckians who are uninsured, whom officials hope will enroll either in Medicaid or purchase health care through the exchange. In Boyd County alone, said Abramson, there are some 7,000 uninsured residents younger than 65.
Health Department Director Maria Hardy said the kiosk will be staffed by an employee who speaks both English and Spanish, five days a week. “Because of the number that we have, roughly 7,000 in Boyd County alone, we need to make it easy for clients transportation wide to access the exchange,” said Hardy. The health department is on the city’s bus route.
“There are people who do not feel comfortable on a computer and this allows some personal tutoring with it, and makes it much easier for them and less frustrating,” she said.
The main frustration reported so far, is trouble accessing the site because of the high demand.
Abramson acknowledged Tuesday’s technology glitch, which shut down the system for several hours. He downplayed the issue, saying Kentuckians still have plenty of time to sign up over the next six months. “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said.
Open enrollment for Medicaid and private insurance plans on the exchange will run through March 31. However, for coverage to begin Jan. 1, enrollment must take place by Dec.15.
Abramson said he found it “ironic” the federal government was shut down because of efforts by Republicans in the House of Representatives to block funding of the ACA. Despite the shutdown, it is successfully being rolled out across the nation.
Federal grants that funded the startup of Kynect were allocated months ago and will not be affected by the shutdown, Abramson said. Kynect is expected to be self-sustaining by 2015.
“This is not perfect,” he said of the ACA, “But you do not compare a law that has been passed to perfection. You compare it to the alternative. The alternative for those 640,000 uninsured people is nothing.”
Four out of five Kentuckians who use kynect are expected to qualify for financial assistance to help cover a portion of their health care costs. According to the income guidelines, individuals earning up to $15,800 in adjusted income per year and families of four earning up to $31,000 are now eligible for Medicaid.
Through the exchanges, individuals making up to $46,000 and a family of four with income of up to $92,000 can qualify for federal subsidies to purchase insurance.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.