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Beshear cites improvements to Kynect, says state is ready for upcoming open enrollment

A series of improvements to Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange, will improve consumer experience and encourage more Kentuckians to enroll in affordable health insurance, Gov. Steve Beshear said at a press conference today. Open enrollment on Kynect begins Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15.

“Kentucky is the hands-down national leader in helping people access affordable health care. Our exchange, Kynect, is the gold standard for ease of use and convenience.  However, we have been working since last spring to make it even better for Kentuckians during this open enrollment,” Beshear said. “We are also encouraging people who bought health plans on the exchange to go back and shop again, because you may find a better plan for your family.”

Kentucky was hailed as a national leader last year when more than 521,000 Kentuckians enrolled in health care coverage through Kynect.  Three out of every four enrollees reported that they had no health insurance prior to signing up through Kynect.  A Gallup poll this summer reported that thanks to Kynect, Kentucky had the second-highest reduction of uninsured people in the country, falling from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 percent midway through 2014.

New app and enhanced website

Since the first open enrollment period closed last spring, Kynect administrators have developed a new mobile app as well as made enhancements to the Kynect website designed to make shopping easier, Beshear said.

The Kynect mobile app is a free download available for both Apple and Android smartphones.  Through it, users can enter basic information about their address and household income to see what kind of coverage they may qualify for, and how much of a discount or subsidy they may be able to use.  The app also shows nearby insurance agents and Kynectors, as well as enrollment events in the user’s county. Additional versions of the app are expected to be available later this fall.

Through the website now, entering your basic information about county of residence, household income, household size and smoking status will not only show which plans are available, but will also display the final amount members will pay for those plans – with discounts and subsidies already calculated.

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“Very few people shopping for health insurance through Kynect will pay what we call the ‘sticker price’, or the full cost of a plan.  More than 3 out of every 4 Kentuckians will qualify for some kind of payment assistance to lower their premium cost,” said Carrie Banahan, executive director of Kynect. “Now, you’ll be able to evaluate your actual costs right away.” 

To support the high volume of website visitors and applications, Kynect administrators also added new servers to expand capacity. 

More agents, more call center representatives, new storefront

This year, the number of certified insurance agents authorized to sell Kynect health plans has doubled, from 1,400 to 2,800.

“Shopping for health insurance is often easier with an agent, especially when it’s someone who’s familiar with your family,” said Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “There are insurance agents in every county trained to help individuals find their best plan through Kynect, and we’re excited that so many more agents have signed on to guide Kentuckians to better health care.”

To shorten call times and handle high call volumes, the number of Kynect call center representatives has increased from 185 to 400; call center hours have been expanded to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Kynect also will have a physical store in Lexington’s Fayette Mall during open enrollment.  The Kynect store will open this Thursday, and will have insurance agents, Kynectors and kiosks available during the mall’s regular hours to help people determine eligibility, choose insurance plans and enroll in health care coverage.

Finding the best price, best coverage

Two new insurance companies have joined the Kynect marketplace, bringing the total number of insurers in the state to seven and increasing choices for many Kentuckians.  Also, returning insurers have revised some of their plan offerings to provide new choices for shoppers, such as coverage at out-of-state hospitals.

“Because of the astonishing success of Kynect last year, more health insurers decided to get in the game,” Beshear said. “That increased competition is good news for Kentuckians looking for a good deal on health insurance. To get the best price and benefits for your family, we strongly encourage people to visit Kynect. Even if you’re happy with the plan you enrolled in last year, you may find a less expensive policy or one with a broader network of providers by shopping again.”

Policyholders may find that their premiums are going up, going down, staying the same or fluctuating slightly.  Health care costs for the individual market typically increased about 8 percent or more per year before the Affordable Care Act – and there were no subsidies or discounts to help defray costs then as there are now. Changes in costs, whether up or down, are to be expected.

Private health insurance policies sold through Kynect don’t have a single “sticker price.”  There is no “average” price, or an average increase or decrease for the plan costs, because many factors go into determining the cost to an individual.  Variables like the type of plan, where people live, if they smoke, how old they are, household income and family size all influence costs to individuals.  

Policies are also available in four different “metal” levels – bronze, silver, gold and platinum – with varying levels of deductibles and monthly premiums. With all those variables in the mix, Kynect offers some 70,000 different rates.

Household income alone determines the amount of any discount. An individual earning up to $46,680 a year will qualify for a discount; a family of four earning up to $95,400 will also receive a discount.

Individuals can decide among several health plan options with differing monthly premiums.  Keeping monthly premium costs low generally means slightly higher out-of-pocket costs (such as deductibles and co-insurance); likewise, a comparatively higher monthly premium usually means lower out-of-pocket costs for things like office visits and prescriptions.

“There’s been a lot of fear-mongering about costs of health insurance after the Affordable Care Act, but it’s clear that with the Kynect discounts, health insurance can be affordable for Kentuckians who need it most, many of whom were previously denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” said Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

For Kentuckians who enrolled in Medicaid, there’s no need to go back to Kynect unless household income has changed or they want to use a different Medicaid managed care organization.

Making an impact

During today’s press conference, Beshear also shared some of the successes of the past year, including:

‣ The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has tracked health outcomes in the Medicaid population. Since January, adult preventive services, such as well visits and flu shots, have increased nearly 37 percent over 2013 rates.  Breast cancer screenings are up 20 percent over last year’s numbers, and colorectal cancer screenings have increased nearly 17 percent.  Adult dental visits are up by more than a third.

‣ More Kentuckians are now working in health-related jobs. From July 2013 to July 2014, an additional 3,000 jobs have been created in core health care services in Kentucky, as well as almost 8,000 additional jobs in administrative and support services.

‣ There has been a fiscal impact on all areas of health care, including on rural hospitals. The combination of dramatic decreases in indigent care and corresponding increases in payments has bolstered many providers’ bottom line. From state fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014 alone, total payments to providers increased 13 percent from $5.5 billion to $6.2 billion.  Hospital revenues alone increased 20 percent.

‣ As a result of Medicaid expansion, payments to hospitals have unequivocally increased for hospitals in both rural and urban areas, with few exceptions. As for indigent care, the decreasing number of uninsured patients has led to a proportionate decrease in the potential cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and for medical providers.

From Office of the Governor

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