Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, with help from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, rolled out the reopening Friday of Kynect, the state-based health insurance exchange.
Friday was the start of open enrollment for existing recipients of Medicaid, the government health plan for low-income people and those with disabilities. Open enrollment for private health plans on Kentucky’s exchange is from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15.
The exchange was started by Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, under the federal Affordable Care but was shuttered in favor of the federal health exchange by his successor, former Gov. Matt Bevin.
“I’m really excited about today. Kynect was the gold standard,” Andy Beshear said in a Zoom news conference with Becerra. “Health care coverage is neither red nor blue, Democrat or Republican. It is necessary for survival in a pandemic and it is necessary for Kentucky to thrive.”
Becerra praised Kynect, calling it a “Kentucky-made, Kentucky-driven and Kentucky-based product” and that no one knows better the health care needs of Kentuckians than Beshear. He labeled Beshear a “true champion of health care.”
Beshear said the goal is to get health insurance to 280,000 uninsured Kentuckians.
Beshear announced last year that he was bringing back Kynect, the online health exchange where people can shop for and buy health insurance, as well as sign up for Medicaid.
Kentucky received national praise for the program that brought about one of the lowest rates of uninsured in the country. Bevin, htough, said it was too costly and redundant of the federal website to buy health insurance. He stopped it in 2017.
Beshear said Friday that Kentuckians now can browse plans and explore benefits at kynect.ky.gov that take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
Compared with current federal exchange offerings, Kentuckians will benefit in 2022 from more health care insurance providers and the opportunity to tailor coverage to address their unique needs, said Beshear.
He said the change is expected to save Kentuckians at least $15 million a year.
People who buy commercial health plans through the federal site pay a surcharge on premiums, which will not continue with the state-based marketplace. Savings will be passed on to Kentuckians who buy health coverage through the marketplace, Beshear said.
Restoring the portal and other kynect services will help Kentuckians get better access to local support throughout the application process, said Beshear.
Kentucky will receive $650,000 in American Rescue Plan Act grant funding to support the reopening of kynect.
Kentuckians will once again have access to all the benefits of the original state-based kynect, launched in 2013, including the ability to determine eligibility for Medicaid or a subsidy to help offset their out-of-pocket premium costs, said Beshear.
In addition to Anthem’s statewide coverage and CareSource, which offers plans in 100 counties, consumers can shop for plans available in select counties from two new health insurers; Ambetter from WellCare of Kentucky and Passport Health Plan by Molina.
Also new in January 2022, Kentuckians will be able to purchase a vision plan through kynect. VSP Individual Vision Plans will offer enrollees a comprehensive eye exam from an in-network doctor, an eye frame allowance and lens enhancements, such as progressives.
In addition to the new medical benefits, kynect provides Kentuckians with information about other types of income or need-based assistance and benefits, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program
Since October 2020, the kynect portal has been logged into more than 2.3 million times by more than 1.8 million visitors, said Beshear
This story was originally published October 15, 2021 11:25 AM.