Health

Open enrollment for insurance through Kentucky’s health care exchange begins Nov. 1, which means thousands of Kentuckians will be renewing their coverage or looking for coverage.

A new analysis by Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there are 285,000 uninsured Kentuckians who could enroll for health care through the state’s health insurance marketplace, Kynect.

In Kentucky, 43 percent of the uninsured are eligible for Medicaid and 42 percent are not eligible for financial assistance due to income, citizenship status or employer-sponsored insurance.

The remaining Kentuckians, roughly 15 percent are eligible for a subsidy to help pay for the cost of health insurance coverage.

Cynthia Cox, associate director of health reform and private insurance for Kaiser Family Foundation, said the Affordable Care Act was never expected to cover everyone in the U.S. But she said the ACA makes health insurance coverage more accessible and affordable to low-income individuals.

“What you can see from this analysis is that of the people who are still uninsured in the United States, roughly half of them are eligible for some sort of financial assistance to help them get health insurance. But the other half are not eligible for anymore financial assistance,” she said.

Kentucky’s enrollment numbers may illustrate how effective Medicaid expansion has been in the state, Cox said. In 2014, a total of 310,887 Kentuckians enrolled in Medicaid, according to the state’s Medicaid Expansion Report compiled by Deloitte consulting.

Kentucky has the largest drop in uninsured rate in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state’s uninsured rate is currently 9 percent. Prior to the ACA, Kentucky’s uninsured rate was 20.4 percent.

The Medicaid expansion has been a political issue in Kentucky. Matt Bevin, the GOP candidate for governor, and other Republicans have argued that the Medicaid expansion will be too costly for Kentucky once the federal government begins requiring states to pick up a percentage of the tab for recipients in 2017.

Bevin has said he would roll back the Medicaid expansion if elected. Democratic candidate Jack Conway has said he would continue the expansion. Independent candidate Drew Curtis has said he would support the expansion as long as the state could afford it.

For the time being, Kentucky has an expanded Medicaid system, and Cox said the state has made a “tremendous amount of progress” toward getting its uninsured to enroll.

But, she said, “it looks like of those still eligible for assistance, most of them are Medicaid-eligible. So, there may be some work that needs to be done to get people who are Medicaid-eligible to sign up for coverage.”

Cox said targeted outreach and enrollment may help the state in getting people signed up for Medicaid. She said many people in other states have benefited from targeted enrollment.

“Particularly in cities, it’s easier to do this sort of targeted enrollment where you go to a particular place where there are a high number of people who are uninsured and eligible for a particular service,”she said.

(Image via Creative Commons)