Health

Kentuckians who’ve purchased health insurance via Kynect will have to re-enroll on the federal exchange starting Nov. 1.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday told Gov. Matt Bevin that all major milestones for the switch had been met. As of this year, 74,640 people were enrolled via the state health care exchange, Kynect.

This means if you currently have coverage that was acquired on the state exchange, you will have to re-enroll on the federal exchange at healthcare.gov. Officials said that’s due to consumer information not being transferred from Kynect. 

Adam Meier, Bevin’s chief of staff for policy, said people can be screened for Medicaid eligibility or a plan on the federal exchange via the Benefind website, which operates as the umbrella portal for Kentuckians to apply for nearly all entitlement services.

In his campaign for governor, Bevin promised to dismantle Kynect and move Kentucky to the federal exchange. He called the state-run exchange “redundant” and said it “adds no value.” 

Although individuals can begin applying for coverage on the federal exchange Nov. 1, Kynect will remain open for small business owners to buy coverage and for special cases — including adding a family member or moving — until March 31, 2017. After that date, Kynect, officials will continue to negotiate rates with insurers and work on insurer participation.

CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt said in a letter to Bevin that there are still concerns about communicating the change to consumers in Kentucky. Kynect was able to determine eligibility automatically and allow consumers to immediately sign up for coverage in the same sitting. With Healthcare.gov, however, consumers will have to enter eligibility information, wait for a reply, and then apply for coverage.

“Following the transition, many applicants will begin their application in one place and then experience a waiting period while their application is transferred and processed,” Slavitt wrote in the letter dated Oct. 4. “They will then have to complete that application and enrollment on a different platform.”

This includes people who are eligible for Medicaid and could face a delay in coverage because they think they may be eligible for subsidies on the federal exchange.

Kentucky also has more work to do with training people who will help consumers enroll in Healthcare.gov, which is a completely different system than Kynect.

“Changes in system functionality may result in confusion for Kentucky consumers; it is therefore essential that the transition be clearly and effectively communicated to Kentucky consumers to ensure that they have the information they need to enroll in coverage on HealthCare.gov starting Nov. 1, 2016,” the letter reads.

Meier said there’s an outreach plan currently underway. He said consumers will receive letters from insurers notifying them they have to re-enroll. Later in the month, digital marketing will begin with social media and television ads.

“You try to target those things closer to open enrollment because people tend to forget,” Meir said. “We’ll touch them every couple weeks with a text or postcard for where and how to enroll.”

Meir said this process will not be unlike what happened last year when the Kentucky insurance co-op went out of business and 51,000 people had to re-enroll.

The window for open enrollment is Nov. 1 through Jan. 31. For coverage starting Jan. 1, 2017, consumers must sign up by Dec. 15, 2016.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.