Obamacare recruiters encounter resistance in rural Kentucky

Promoters of the new health-insurance system being created under the federal health-reform law are running into resistance in rural Kentucky, where “tend to be less connected to the Internet and less exposed to ad
campaigns under way in the state,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “And they are typically more
conservative, sometimes with deep antipathy toward President Barack
Obama and anything linked to him.”

Erin Hoben

“In rural areas,
they’re not getting a lot of the positive messaging” about the law, Erin Hoben, an outreach coordinator for Kentucky Voices for
, a coalition of pro-Obamacare groups, told reporter Arian Campo-Flores, who writes: “Among the worries expressed by
audience members at forums she has attended: that the law will cause
taxes to rise and bankrupt federal and state governments. At one recent
event, “One guy called me a ‘Yankee’ and stopped talking to me,” said Hoben, who is from Louisville.

But others in Pikeville, from which Campo-Flores reported, indicated positive interest in the state health benefits exchange, Kynect, that will go online Oct. 1 with standard policies with subsidies for most people, or a Medicaid program being expanded by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, at 100 percent federal expense for the first three years, 90 percent by 2020.

Nurse administrator Lee Barnard,
left, and Carrie Banahan, boss of the Health
Benefit Exchange,
talk with Darrell Mounts,
right, and Matthew Justice, far right, in Pikeville. (WSJ photo: Ian Bates)

Rural signups are critical in states like Kentucky, where 45 percent of the estimated 640,000 uninsured people live outside metropolitan areas. Nationally, only 17 percent of the uninsured are rural, Campo-Flores notes.

“Cara Stewart, a health-law fellow at the not-for-profit Kentucky
Equal Justice Center
, has been driving 6,000 miles a month traversing
the state to reach residents,” Campo-Flores reports. “She said she has enlisted local pastors
and choir leaders to help connect her with their congregations. Another avenue she is pursuing: the Cooperative Extension Service
offices of Kentucky’s two land-grant universities.” Stewart said, “They’re a neutral, trusted source of
information.” (Read more)

University of Kentucky Extension Service Director Jimmy Henning said in an email to Kentucky Health News, “We are doing a lot of education relating to health, just as we always have done, and that would include helping people evaluate their options” under the reform law, but agents are not acting as paid navigators. That’s in keeping with their roles as independent providers of information.

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