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Open Enrollment Ends Saturday; Almost 30,000 Uninsured Kentuckians Qualify For Free Insurance

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Time is running out for Kentuckians who want to sign up for individual health insurance on Healthcare.gov.

Kentucky residents have until Saturday, December 15 at 11:59 p.m. to sign up for insurance. In case of a busy signal, the federal government has extended the deadline for people who are prompted to leave a message with the Healthcare.gov call center. Those people will have their call returned after December 15 and will be allowed to enroll in coverage for a start date of January 1.

According to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 29,509 Kentuckians — or about a quarter of uninsured people in Kentucky — would qualify for a "bronze" level individual market plan for free because of their income.

The bronze level plan doesn’t ensure that a person won’t have to pay costs when they go to use their insurance. For instance, bronze-level insurance plan deductibles average about $6,258. This would mean an enrollee would have to spend that much out-of-pocket before insurance starts paying claims.

People who qualify for a free bronze-level plan might also qualify for a better deal: a "silver" plan with a very low premium and a lower deductible, according to the Kaiser analysis.

Health insurance enrollment is lagging nationwide. As of December 8 in Kentucky 39,760 had signed up for a plan, nearly 8,000 fewer people than were enrolled during the same period last year.

By the time open enrollment had closed on December 15 of last year, 90,625 Kentuckians signed up for a plan. This means more than 50,000 people would need to enroll by Saturday to meet last year’s enrollment numbers in the state.

There are a number of factors that could contribute to the lower enrollment numbers. That includes the elimination of the individual mandate: consumers will no longer be penalized on their taxes for not having health insurance in 2019. And short-term health plans, which typically have lasted for three months, can now be used to cover people for up to a year. The short-term plans are usually a cheaper option than Healthcare.gov plans for people who don’t receive federal support to help them pay for coverage, but offer skimpier coverage.

The Healthcare.gov call center number is:1-800-318-2596.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.