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Health

Some Kansans Still Signing Up For Health Coverage Through The Marketplace

Ranney.jpg
Dave Ranney
/
KHI News Service

More than 57,000 Kansans signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange before the March 31 deadline.

“That was 19.1 percent of all those who were eligible,” said Katrina McGivern, communications coordinator for the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved, one of the Kansas groups given federal grant dollars to help get people enrolled.

“We’d liked to have more, obviously, but we were happy with 57,000,” she said. “We beat our goal, which was 48,000. I think if you look at the states that are similar to us, both politically and in size, we were somewhere in the middle. We were average.”

Most of the remaining 241,000 eligible Kansans who opted not to buy insurance through the marketplace now have to wait until annual enrollment reopens on Nov. 15.

But there are some notable exceptions.

“If you have what’s called a life-altering event, you can still get on the marketplace,” McGivern said.

Among the events are marriage, death of a spouse, birth of a child, loss of a job, retirement, adopting a child, becoming a citizen and exiting incarceration.

Would-be enrollees have 60 days after the life-changing event to sign up for insurance through the exchange.

“I’m guessing we’re taking calls from probably two people a day with this,” said Christina Bachman, a marketplace navigator with the Salina Family Healthcare Center.

“The most common situations, so far, have been people who are retiring early or who’ve been laid off,” she said. “Anytime there’s a change in employment, that’s considered a life-altering event and you can enroll.”

Paige Ashley, outreach and enrollment coordinator with the Shawnee County Health Agency, said most of the calls she’s fielded have been from people who had lost their jobs.

“I just had a woman come in today who said her whole department had been outsourced,” Ashley said. “She was out of work, but she knew she had to have health insurance so she wanted to know if she could still get on the marketplace, and she could.”

Ashley, Bachman and McGivern each declined to predict how many uninsured or underinsured Kansans are likely to enroll prior to the marketplace reopening Nov. 15.

“I don’t think anybody knows at this point,” McGivern said. “But if you fit into one of these life-change categories, you’re still going to have to go through the enrollment process and you’re still going to be exposed to the 'donut hole,' which means you might be eligible for financial assistance or you might not. There are a million different scenarios.”

McGivern said she has encouraged the 165 marketplace navigators in Kansas to alert their area employers to the benefits available to workers who’ve been fired or laid off.

“We’re trying to get the word out to the people who do the hiring and firing,” she said.

The life-changing events are similar to those allowed by large group plans.

“One of the things that Affordable Care Act does is it brings the same rules that exist in the employer insurance market into the individual market,” said Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project in Kansas.

“So if you’re someone whose insurance is through your employer and you have a baby, your plan allows you to add the baby to your plan,” he said. “You don’t have to wait until your open enrollment period rolls around again. This is doing the same thing for the individual market.”

Dave Ranney is a senior editor and reporter with KHI News Service, an editorially independent reporting program of the Kansas Health Institute.

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