Health

With another impending deadline for coverage, enrollment in Kentucky’s health insurance exchange is steadily growing, says Nicole Comeaux, deputy executive director for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.

So far, 12,500 individuals have enrolled in qualified health plans and 25,700 individuals have newly enrolled in Medicaid coverage, Comeaux said during a wide-ranging conference call Wednesday with health care exchange directors from other states.

This is the first year that Americans without health insurance may face a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever is higher. Rather than emphasize the individual mandate, the Kentucky agency is focusing on the benefits of enrolling in Kynect.

“We focus a lot more on the advantages of having insurance and also educating a population who previously didn’t have insurance on how to best utilize it now that they do have it,” she said.

It is unclear how many Kentuckians may have to pay a fine for not carrying health insurance. Comeaux also said officials  won’t know who canceled coverage until later in the open enrollment period.

She said the agency is aware that this year’s tax season may leave many with questions with the addition of Form 1095-A, which will state the amount of the advanced premium tax credit provided to Kentuckians to help pay for their insurance coverage.

“We know that this is something that’s going to be confusing for consumers, so we are working very hard on making sure that we have clear messaging for them as well as access to all of the resources that are available be it through us or the IRS,” she said.

As for enrolling new Kentuckians, Comeaux said officials are focusing on the “young and invincible population” by visiting college campuses, particularly community colleges, to encourage young adults to enroll in Kynect.

She said other efforts, such as the retail store at Fayette Mall in Lexington, has attracted more than 5,500 visitors. The agency is considering opening up a pop-up store at the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass in Simpsonville for the end of this enrollment period, and possibly a storefront for next year’s enrollment.

The agency has also begun preliminary research on the effects expanded health insurance is having on hospitals in the state.

Comeaux said they have seen a significant decrease in uncompensated care, particularly in smaller hospitals in rural areas in eastern Kentucky.

Comeaux expects a spike in enrollment as the Feb. 15 deadline approaches.