Jaye Allen is a Kynector, paid by the state to help assist people with health insurance. It’s her job to meet with people face-to-face in order to enroll them in a plan under the Affordable Care Act.
She’s had the job since September, and she estimates she’s helped 400 people select a plan that fits both their needs and their budget.
Allen and other assisters play a crucial role in the process of signing up people for insurance through health care exchanges.
During the first open enrollment period for health care, more than 4,400 assister programs helped 10.6 million Americans navigate health insurance options, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Most of these people sought help because they didn’t understand the ACA or their coverage options. Others simply lacked confidence in applying on their own.
With only a few weeks to go before this year’s open enrollment deadline, Allen was recently at an event at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Shelbyville. She was targeting what the insurance industry calls “young invincibles:” 19- to 34-year-olds who generally go without health insurance. People like Preston Holmes.
“I’ve worked for places that have offered health insurance, but it takes such a big chunk out of my check that at the time I couldn’t afford it,” Holmes said.
Holmes, 25, is a single dad. He’s come prepared with his daughter’s social security number and his most recent pay stubs from his part-time job. Allen entered his name, birth date and social security number into an online form. Enrolling him in Kynect took less than an hour.
Allen, 26, said for young adults, their primary concern is often health insurance’s affordability.
“Some young adults don’t work full time; they work part time. So, they’re worried—‘I only work part time, am I going to be able to afford this,” she said.
One of the provisions of the ACA is that low-income individuals may qualify for subsidies to help pay the cost of coverage. Many states, including Kentucky, expanded Medicaid, allowing more low-income people to enroll.
But signing up for health insurance, regardless of affordability, can be confusing.
Genevieve Kenney, co-director of Health Policy at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., said health insurance has many dimensions, which makes it challenging for anyone to select the right policy. She said that’s especially true for young adults.
“While they are more savvy when it comes to computer technology and using websites than say older folks, they still need in-person assistance to help navigate the choices they are facing,” Kenney said.
But several months into the job, Allen said it’s apparent that many people aren’t aware that Kynectors are available to assist in the process. And if people don’t know Kynectors are available, they won’t use them.
“You didn’t know that there was someone you could actually meet with in person, schedule a time, meet us at a library or come to one of our outreach events … there are those people who had no clue,” she said.
Allen said she doesn’t just leave people to fend for themselves after they enroll in coverage. She is still available to answer any questions or update their information long after open enrollment ends.
“If people get letters in the mail that they don’t understand, they’ll give me a call and I’ll answer those questions,” she said.
For now, Allen said she hopes to get a few more Kentuckians enrolled in health insurance before this year’s open enrollment period ends on Feb. 15.