Local assistance available to sign up for health care

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By Kristin Beck

If applying for health insurance through the state’s new kynect system feels like a daunting task or you have questions and want to talk to a “real” person, there is someone local who can help.

Outreach “kynector” Stacey Forrest from Triad Health Systems is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in Room 117 of Carroll County Memorial Hospital.

Kynect is a program run by the Kentucky Office of the Health Benefit Exchange within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Federal law requires each state to have an online health insurance marketplace, beginning in fall 2013, to ensure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare, according to website, kynect.ky.gov.

Forrest has been available at the hospital since Oct. 22 and will be there through the end of open enrollment March 31, 2014. Coverage begins as soon as Jan. 1, 2014.

She also will be at the Gallatin County Triad Health Systems office Mondays and Fridays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and at Three Rivers District Health Department in Owen County on Wednesdays from. Kynector Tonya Spaeth also is available at the health department Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Forrest said she also is talking with CCMH about visiting its Trimble County facility, Bedford Family Practice, in the future.

An estimated 640,000 Kentuckians were uninsured as of 2013, or 14.9 percent of the state´s population.

Forrest emphasized that kynect is not designed to be a secondary insurance to another policy or to Medicaid. Kynect is meant to provide health insurance for those who do not have any.

Forrest said her role as a kynector is “to educate our community residents and make themmore aware of what the Affordable Care Act offers. The program focuses toward underinsured, noninsured and, currently, small businesses of 50 employees or less.”

Kentucky residents may register online at kynect.ky.gov, call customer service at (1-855) 4kynect (459-6328) TTY: (1-855) 326-4654 or sign-up in person with Forrest or another kynector. Paper applications also are available, but the process takes longer.

There is no cost to register, and no paperwork is required to create an account, Forrest said.

When registering online, the form will ask if the applicant wants to assign a kynector or assistant. Click “yes” and type in “Stacey Forrest” or click on Triad Health Systems and choose her name from the drop-down menu.

This way, if an applicant has a question, they can call Forrest and she can access their account. If she is not designated, the applicant will have to go back into their account online and change it, call customer service or submit their questions online.

Any changes or updates can be made online, even if the applicant registered by phone or in person, Forrest said.

When deciding where to set up offices, Forrest said Triad tried to target areas where they could catch the greatest number of uninsured people – hospitals, medical centers and health departments.

However, she also is looking for outside opportunities to come and speak. Forrest said she spoke to an English as a Second Language class two weeks ago at Gallatin County Library and has gotten permission to do house calls for people who cannot return their paperwork.

One challenge kynect has faced is helping people who do not have Internet access in their homes, so they are trying to be accommodating. Kiosk information on kynect is available at the Three Rivers offices in Carroll, Owen, Gallatin and Pendleton counties.

Forrest said she urges everyone to come in or get online and educate themselves on what is available.

“I think everybody needs to explore their options, even if the results aren’t what they hoped they would be, at least they know what they are.”

Small businesses with under 50 employees also can take advantage of kynect. Forrest said kynect benefits employers because the company may be able to offer better insurance coverage options because they are not paying the full premium. Small businesses do not have to use it, but it is an available option, she said. Kynect also will be available soon for businesses with more than 100 employees, she said.

One added insurance requirement that affects everyone, not just those using kynect, is dental insurance.

Anyone living in your house under the age of 24 must have dental insurance, Forrest said. If someone’s current plan with his or her employer does not include it, it must be purchased separately, she said.

Forrest said individuals may still purchase private policies or apply for Medicaid. However, by purchasing independently, they will not receive tax credits or assistance with their premiums.