McConnell shares excerpts from letters he received from Kentuckians who are frustrated by health-reform law

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Continuing his attack on Obamacare, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor last week to read excerpts from letters he received from Kentuckians who are angry about the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. UPDATE, Dec. 17: He did so again today; video is here.

Generally, the main issues cited by McConnell are frustration with President Obama’s promise that people happy with their health insurance could keep it; anger that their premiums and deductibles had increased under new policies that meet the law’s requirements; and dissatisfaction with their inability to choose and pay for only the services they wanted. For example, several constituents said they did not have children, but were required to pay for pediatric dental care and maternity care.

A 35-year-old college graduate and married father of two from Bowling Green told McConnell that his plan, which he said best met his family’s needs, had been canceled. As he sought a new plan that met the requirements, he was told it would cost 124 percent more. He noted that Vice President Joe Biden said Sept. 27 that a family of four with $50,000 income could get health insurance for “as little as $106 per month.” McConnell said the Bowling Green man was quoted a price eight times that amount and asked him, “Why should the price of a product be based on my ability to pay?” The law provides subsidies for insurance coverage based on income and the type of plan purchased through the state insurance exchange, Kynect, up to $94,000 for a family of four.

Sherry Harris of Nicholasville told McConnell she was concerned that Lake Cumberland Hospital in Somerset was not on the Anthem network, “which means anybody in Pulaski and surrounding counties that qualify for a subsidy and want to use it will have to drive to London, Corbin or Lexington to get care” if they have an Anthem policy. Insurance companies are being more selective about their care networks in an effort to reduce costs; for details, click here.

A “Mr. and Mrs. Spears” of Louisville told McConnell that when they signed her up for the Kentucky Health Cooperative plan on Kynect, they did not sign up for a subsidy and thus were told no income verification was necessary.  Since then, they have received mailings from the insurance exchange declining coverage unless they sent income verification.

Exchange spokeswoman Gwenda Bond told Kentucky Health News in an email, “A request for additional documentation related to income verification might be generated, if they are likely to qualify for a subsidy based on the information provided on the application. Everyone is eligible to purchase a qualified health plan at sticker price at any time.” The sticker price is the amount before the subsidy is subtracted.

Mrs. Spears also questioned the exchange’s request for her voter-registration information. Bond said the federal “motor voter” law requires public-assistance agencies to ask applicants if they would like to register to vote. “Because Kentucky’s exchange is a single streamlined system for both Medicaid and subsidies, applicants are asked if they would like to register to vote,” she said. “A voter registration form is mailed to them if they request one. There is no follow-up related to whether an individual registers or not, and it does not have an impact on coverage.”

Mike Conn of Prestonsburg was upset that a policy with similar coverage to his previous policy would cost double.  He told McConnell that he was informed by the individual who helped him find coverage that it was because he lived in Eastern Kentucky and his old insurance company was “apparently not available there.” Humana Inc. chose not to offer plans in all parts of the state.

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