Open enrollment underway, will insurance rate hikes affect you?

Sign-ups for health insurance for you and your family are underway for the coming year. It’s the third year Kentuckians are able to sign up through the state’s health care exchange, Kynect.

Four existing carriers on Kynect increased rates, one asked for a decrease, and two more carriers were added this year.

Most of western Kentucky is covered by Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky, Inc., which saw a 12.2 percent increase: the highest rate increase out the exchange’s seven providers. New this year, UnitedHealthcare of Kentucky, Ltd., is offering individual plans in our area, creating more options for you.

Kentucky Department of Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark says we’ve seen rate increases since Kynect started because of a lack of data. She says providers had to basically guess how much it would cost to cover patients who’d never had insurance.

2016 rates are based on 15 months of data. Clark says that going forward rates should not have dramatic increases, but that isn’t guaranteed.

“We try to keep the rates as low as possible, but we have to make sure there are adequate funds to make sure claims are paid. I have to make sure insurance companies have enough money to pay those huge claims,” Clark said.

Kentucky Health Benefit and Information Exchange Executive Director Carrie Banahan encourages you to go online and compare plans even if you already have one. She says you may not see those rate increases depending on different factors, like where you live or what plan you qualify for.

“They could find a lower rate or their premium subsidy could also have increased this year, resulting in a lower contribution amount for the individual," Banahan said.

It costs Kentucky $28 million to run Kynect, which is covered by a 1 percent fee paid by you. Banahan says that fee would increase by 2.5 percent using the federal exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act.

Banahan added that a state run exchange makes the experience more personable and allows customers easier communication versus a federal exchange.

“The customer service reps are not trained in specific state policies and procedures like they are with our Kynect call center,” Banahan said.

Communications and Administrative Review Executive Director for the Kentucky Cabinet For Health and Family Services Jill Midkiff says providers also strongly prefer state-run exchanges because of less regulation. A federal exchange would require providers to follow state and federal regulations when offering coverage. Based on that, Midkiff says a federal run exchange could mean fewer providers, which means less plans for you.

Overall, the health care exchange is helping more people have health insurance. Since Kynect started, we’ve gone from 20.4 percent of Kentuckians being uninsured to 8.5 percent.

“Now people can seek care coverage for preventative services and actually have a condition or illness detected early,” Banahan said.

The penalty this year for not having health coverage is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, or 2.5 percent of your yearly income  —whichever is higher.

To sign up for Kynect, click here.

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