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Kentuckians Don't Always Enroll in the Best Health Insurance Option

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If you passively renewed your health insurance plan this enrollment period through Kynect, you may be one of thousands who are missing out on a cost-saving insurance plan.

Carrie Banahan, executive director of Kynect, said about 12,000 qualified Kentucky residents aren't getting a cost-sharing reduction through the health insurance exchange's "Silver" plan because they are enrolled in other plans.

"Folks might have just gone to the 'Platinum' plan  and said, 'Yep, that's the one I want,' and didn't look at their other options," she said.

"If they would have scrolled down to the 'Silver' plans they would have seen, 'Oh, a cheaper premium and lower out of pocket costs than this 'Platinum' plan," she said.

This week, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services began sending letters to people who are enrolled in "Platinum" and "Gold" plans.

Banahan said they could expect to see a significant reduction in premium cost and a lower out of pocket cost, reflecting a seven to 13 percent decrease.

The concept of cost-sharing reductions was a new feature created under the Affordable Care Act and was not easily understood, said Banahan. She believes that is what caused many people to miss out on benefits that were available to them.

Banahan said that the situation shows that more education is needed to help people through the enrollment process, and health insurance coverage in general.

"Year one was about enrolling people and getting them to understand how to use their insurance. Now, we're trying to focus on what's the best option available to you at the cheapest costs." Banahan said.

Melissa Mather, communications and planning coordinator for Family Health Centers, said many people searching and using health insurance for the first time are starting from the ground level.

"The health care system is confusing," she said. "We're still a pretty disparate system or it's still really operating in silos where we have our own heath care entities, but we're all trying to reach out to people in different ways."

Mather said she doesn't foresees the conversations surrounding the ACA disappearing anytime soon, which makes it important to inform people in whatever fashion they like to receive information.

"It's going to be something that we talk about a lot moving forward, and I think the  system is going to change as well. Whenever the system changes we have to be working to communicate and share that with folks as well, too," Mather said.

Zachary Barlett has been a certified application counselor for FHC since Kynect began accepting applications in 2013.

Barlett said although people are now empowered to buy health insurance, many don't necessarily know how to.

"Just simple terms like premium versus deductible, out-of-pocket costs—things like this—that weren't apart of the vocabulary a year or so ago are now part of conversations every day that I have, so it's new ground for all of us," he said.

He said people often ask him how much financial assistance they are eligible for and what kind of plan they can buy for a certain amount of money. Those questions are not always easy to answer over the phone.

"It's much better I find to have in person appointments. I'm sure it makes them feel more comfortable to sit down and actually look at the computer and have eyes on what we're talking about," Barlett said.

Banahan said enhancements to the shopping tool on the Kynect website will make a person's eligibility for cost-sharing reductions more visible. Currently, a green dollar sign indicates that a person qualifies for the reduction. The changes are expected to roll out in May.

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