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Ky. health insurance exchange working better than elsewhere

Nearly 18,000 applications started; over 11,000 completed

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 7, 2013) — Despite its first-day problems, Kentucky’s new health-insurance website was the nation’s top performer in the new system, the director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation told The Wall Street Journal.

kynect“Kentucky seems to have a smoother rollout than some other states,” Jennifer Tolbert told reporter Adrian Campo-Flores. Among the sites she visited on the first day, “The one I got through most easily on to get prices and comparisons was the Kynect site.”

Ronnie Ellis of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. reports, “At least so far, the data appears to show it’s working better in Kentucky than in most states and there’s a lot of interest by those who previously couldn’t afford health insurance.”

“State officials and outside experts attribute the smoother rollout to a variety of factors, including intensive testing of the system, a less-flashy but more-efficient website and strong coordination among state agencies involved in the effort,” Campo-Flores reported. The site “doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that other states tried to incorporate,” Tolbert said. “It’s very straightforward in allowing consumers to browse plans without first creating an account.”

State officials and Joel Ario, a managing director at Manatt Health Solutions and a former federal health official, cited the placement of the exchange in the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which had experience setting up the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system. KASPER monitors prescription purchases. The cabinet also includes also runs the Medicaid program and the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program; people with incomes up to 138 percent of poverty can sign up for Medicaid through the exchange, which is also a portal for KCHIP.

As of 4 p.m. Friday, Kentuckians had started more than 18,000 applications for health insurance through Kynect and completed more than 11,000, and more than 5,000 had obtained coverage. More than 120,000 had conducted pre-screenings to determine qualifications for subsidies, discounts, KCHIP or Medicaid.

The Kynect call center had managed more than 25,000 calls. One call was taken by Beshear, and was from “a self-identified Republican from London, who said the new law has increased his health insurance costs and is nothing more than an “Obama tax on hard-working people” to pay for insurance for others,” Ellis reports. “Beshear told the caller to check out rates and plans at Kynect.”

Beshear told the caller, “There’s a world of misinformation out there, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Just go online and find out for yourself. It’s not going to cost you one dime to go and check; if you qualify for a subsidy you’re going to be very excited about what you find.”

The call center’s number is 1-855-459-6328 (4ky-nect). The call center offers callers additional tips for a shorter call time:

· Early afternoon tends to have a slightly shorter wait time.

· If hold time exceeds five minutes, an automated prompt will ask if you would like to leave a number for a customer-service representative to call back.

· If you are online and encounter a problem, you can email the call center and a representative will respond “in a timely manner,” a news release from Beshear’s office promises.

The Kynect site will undergo planned maintenance tonight and tomorrow, so “users may experience occasional outages during the maintenance window, scheduled from 11 p.m. Eastern time Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday,” the release says.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.