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October 01, 2013

In Kentucky, Confusion Marks 'Obamacare' Enrollment

by Brian Padden

While efforts in the U.S. Congress to defund the controversial U.S. health care law known as "Obamacare" have led to a government shutdown, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is continuing as planned.  In Kentucky efforts to sign up the uninsured are underway in a U.S. state that ranks among the worst, if not the worst, in almost every major health category.

Kynect is Kentucky's program for implementing the Affordable Care Act known as "Obamacare."

Its information booth at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which celebrates one of the state’s best selling alcohol exports, has drawn interest from confused and conflicted people in need of health insurance.  

Mike Parkman likes that the new system does not deny coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions, but he doesn't like that the plan is offered to people who don’t have jobs.

“Obamacare is for everybody and I think it should be for more for working people than anything," he said. "I think people who work and pay their bills and doesn’t collect a check [receive assistance] - we should get it.  They should give the people who actually work a chance to get insurance instead of just giving it out for free.”

Carrie Banahan heads the Kentucky Health Exchange Program, which offers discounted health plans. She says many middle-class people don’t realize that the Kentucky program is part of Obamacare, and ironically end up liking many aspects of it.  

“So they don’t understand that Kynect, which is our health benefit exchange as well as the Medicaid expansion, is part of the Affordable Care Act that people are calling Obamacare," she said. "For us it really makes no difference.  We just want to get the people covered.”

Families making up to $80,000 a year qualify for some assistance.

Many of the unemployed and working poor who come to the Mission Frankfort Clinic in Kentucky's capital would qualify for free or subsidized health care under the expanded Medicaid part of Obamacare.    

Aaron Willard who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure says until now he had to choose between health insurance and food for his children.

“Dang, it’s pretty hard you know, not being able to afford things,” he said.

Under Obamacare he will likely qualify for free healthcare.  Kentucky health officials hope to enroll more than  90 percent of the uninsured. The staff at The Mission will now help patients enroll in Obamacare programs where they can get more extensive and preventive care.  But officials say there will still be a need for free clinics for the poor, at least until the transition to Obamacare is complete.