By Carla Anderson
March 31, 2014
The number of Kansans who selected a private health insurance plan through the federal marketplace grew to 29,309 as of March 1 according a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services enrollment report. After five months of open enrollment, Kansas is at about 70 percent of the federal government’s target for signups. An additional 10,300 people have qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) since Oct. 1. While Kansas is not expanding its Medicaid program, many people who are seeking private insurance are qualifying under existing eligibility rules.
Among Kansas residents selecting a private health plan, 78 percent qualified for financial assistance, which is 5 points lower than the national figure. Seventeen percent of Kansans selected a bronze plan (18 percent nationally), 58 percent selected a silver plan (63 percent nationally), 20 percent selected a gold plan (11 percent nationally), 3 percent selected a platinum plan (6 percent nationally) and 2 percent selected a catastrophic plan (1 percent nationally).Twenty-nine percent of enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34. Signups among that age group are considered vital to keeping insurance costs from jumping up in 2015 and beyond.
March 31 is the last day to apply for private health insurance coverage for 2014. However, federal officials announced that anyone who has started an application on HealthCare.gov but not completed it as of March 31 can have until April 15 to finish enrolling. The extension is available in Kansas and all other states using HealthCare.gov for enrollment. Consumers can qualify for the extension just by clicking a box on HealthCare.gov; no documentation is needed.
Enrollment for Medicaid or CHIP continues throughout the year.
Individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater.
The decision against a Kansas-run exchange came despite the efforts of Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and some initial support from Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback, while critical of the Affordable Care Act, initially supported Praeger’s exchange planning efforts. However, he grew less and less supportive over time. In August 2011, Brownback returned a federal grant intended to help the state develop technical infrastructure for running the exchange. The return of the grant effectively quashed a state-run exchange, so Praeger began recommending state-federal partnership as a way for the state to retain some control. In November 2012, Brownback announced that the state would default to a federally operated exchange, issuing a statement that said in part, “My administration will not partner with the federal government to create a state-federal partnership insurance exchange because we will not benefit from it and implementing it could costs Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars.”
Kansas decided against expanding KanCare, which is the state Medicaid program. A poll, conducted in December 2013, found that 72 percent of registered Kansans voters favor expanding the program to individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. While Gov. Brownback says he might consider a “private option” similar to approach taken in other conservative-leaning states, the Republican-controlled Legislature seems unlikely to take any action on a Medicaid bill this year.
As of March, the Kansas legislature is debating a bill (SB 362) that would subject anyone who wants to serve as a navigators to additional scrutiny beyond that already required by federal law. Kansas navigators would have to undergo criminal background checks, be fingerprinted, disclose their credit histories, and pay an annual $100 registration fee. The bill would also prohibit navigators from recommending a specific insurance policy for a consumer. The bill has passed the Senate, and is working through the House.
Four insurance companies are offering policies through the marketplace in Kansas: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Coventry Health and Life Insurance, and Coventry Health Care of Kansas. You can see which companies are available in a particular county at insureKS.org. The four companies are offering a total of 72 plan options.
According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Kansas is $197 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
State Exchange Profile: Kansas
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Kansas’ progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Kansas Insurance Department, Consumer Assistance Division
Assists consumers who have purchased insurance on the individual market or who have insurance through an employer who only does business in Kansas.
(800) 432-2484 / Local: (785) 296-7829
Let your Kansas governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Kansas Governor Sam Brownback