Kentucky ditches federal exchange and moves back to Kynect, which will have two more insurers and its first vision-care plan

Cabinet for Health and Family Services map, adapted by Ky. Health News

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Kentucky is reopening Kynect, the state’s health-insurance exchange, as the portal for Kentuckians to purchase low- or no-cost insurance, and the site will have two more insurers and its first vision plan.

Open enrollment on runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, 2022 for health insurance coverage beginning in 2022. Kentuckians can start browsing and comparing 2022 insurance plans on Oct. 15.
Kynect was re-launched last year as a one-stop shop for Kentuckians to apply for Medicaid and connect qualified families to other resources, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) and family and child-care assistance programs.
Now the platform will again allow Kentuckians to access and compare state-managed insurance options, apply for coverage and complete their enrollment all on one convenient platform, which was its original intent.

In addition to Anthem’s statewide coverage and CareSource, which offers health plans in 100 of the 120 counties, consumers can shop for plans available in select counties from two new health insurers; Ambetter from WellCare of Kentucky, in six western counties, and Passport Health Plan by Molina, in Jefferson, Oldham and Bullitt counties.
Fourteen counties will have only Anthem plans to choose from, down from 26 this year. Most are small and rural, but they include Warren County, the core of metropolitan Bowling Green, the state’s third-largest city. Warren and eight neighboring counties also had Anthem as their only choice this year.
Beshear also announced that for the first time, 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.

Kynect was created by Beshear’s father, then-Gov. Steve Beshear, in 2013 under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. It was closed in 2017 by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who said the site was too expensive to maintain and was redundant. Beshear, a Democrat, said the return to the state-based exchange is expected to save Kentuckians about $15 million a year.

“We encourage everyone to look at their quality health-care options, which we consider to be a basic human right,” Beshear said at Monday’s news conference. “Never has a need for quality health care been more evident than during the Covid-19 global health pandemic.”

Touting the benefits of using a state-based exchange over the federal one, which Kentuckians have used since Kynect was shut down, Beshear said Kynect will have more options for consumers and offer the ability to tailor coverage to address Kentuckians’ unique needs.
Beshear noted that people who buy commercial health plans through the federal site pay a surcharge on premiums, which Kynect will not do. He said those savings will be passed on to Kentuckians who buy coverage through the state-based exchange.
The governor announced that Kentucky will receive $650,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to support the reopening of Kynect.
Since Kynect re-launched in October 2020, the portal has been logged into more than 2.3 million times by more than 1.8 million visitors. Nearly 105,000 applications for benefits have been submitted, and nearly 1 million supporting documents have been uploaded. This is a 180% increase over the daily average noted last year from January through September, said Beshear.
“Kynect is truly a one-stop shop for consumers in need of health coverage, whether it’s Medicaid or a private insurance plan,” Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said in the news release. “With its convenient, mobile-friendly option, it’s also the place to go for access to other resources that you or someone you know may need, including food assistance, transportation, employment, job-training and veterans’ benefits. It will also connect Kentuckians with community services in partnership with Kentucky United Way chapters through all the organizations available on their statewide 211 platform, including: clothing, transportation, housing and more.”
Kentucky is among three states to transition from to their own state-based exchange for 2022 coverage, along with Maine and New Mexico.
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