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Fewer Kentuckians Receiving Help With Health Insurance Premiums, Agency Says

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The number of Kentuckians receiving tax credits through the federal health care law to reduce the cost of insurance is among the lowest in the country. And a state official says that shows Kentucky's health insurance exchange is working the way it's supposed to.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Effectuated Enrollment Snapshot, which the agency released on Tuesday, said nearly seven in 10 Kentuckians received a tax credit to lower their health insurance premium in the period between late February and the end of June. In addition, 38 percent received a cost-sharing reduction, which goes toward the cost of deductibles and other related expenses.

On average, the federal tax credit in Kentucky was $223 per month, CMS data show.

Carrie Banahan, executive director of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, said one reason the figures in Kentucky are so low is that Gov. Steve Beshear's administration decided to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. In states that did not expand eligibility for the program, individuals who otherwise could have qualified for expanded Medicaid may have instead received the tax credit to buy insurance on the individual market, Banahan said.

"They ended up providing their citizens a subsidy if their income was between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level," she said. "But here in Kentucky, we give those folks Medicaid."

According to CMS data, nine of the 10 states with the lowest numbers of tax-credit recipients expanded Medicaid eligibility under ACA. The tenth, Utah, is considering whether to adopt the expansion.

Conversely, eight of the 10 states with the most recipients of health insurance tax credits did not expand their Medicaid eligibility under ACA. (Alaska and Arkansas are the two that did.)

The CMS snapshot said about 9.9 million Americans had paid premiums and had active health insurance policies through either a state or federal insurance exchange. Of those, about 84 percent receive a premium tax credit and roughly 56 percent receive cost-sharing subsidies.

To qualify for cost reductions, individuals must select a Silver Plan on the exchanges. In Kentucky, more than 47,300 chose Silver Plans, which cover about 70 percent of medical costs on average.

WFPL previouslyreported that some 12,000 qualified Kentuckians didn't receive a cost-sharing reduction last year because they were enrolled in other plans. Banahan said the department's effort to notify those individuals and re-enroll them in Silver Plans has been successful.

The state's health insurance exchange website also has a new feature that prominently displays the Silver Plan for people whose income is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

"Those Silver Plans display first, so I think that's going to help people enroll ... and we're going to see a big difference next year at this time," she said.

As for the rest of the plans: 17,417 selected a Bronze Plan, 12,422 chose Gold, and 11.054 chose Platinum.

The Catastrophic Plan had the least amount of enrollees in Kentucky, with 708 people choosing the plan.

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