Friday, January 13, 2017

Jan. 31 is last day to sign up for insurance on if you didn't have a 2016 health plan on Kynect; March 1 if you did

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Jan. 31 is the deadline for Kentuckians who did not have health insurance through Kynect last year to sign up for health insurance through the federal exchange, now being used for enrollment instead of Kynect. If you do not have health insurance, you face a steep penalty when it comes time to file your tax returns.

Kentuckians who had a health insurance plan through Kynect in 2016, with coverage ending Dec. 31, have been granted an extension and can sign up on until March 1, with coverage beginning April 1. In order to qualify for the extension, applicants must check the "loss of qualifying coverage" box on the application, and provide the last date of coverage.

This is the first year Kentuckians have signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange. Gov. Matt Bevin largely dismantled Kynect prior to the 2017 enrollment period, calling it redundant, but it still has a website that can be used to find insurance agents or application assisters, formerly called Kynectors.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services told Kentucky Health News in October that application assisters were available in every county to help people sign up for coverage.

You can find an assister in your area by clicking on the "kynectors/Application Assisters" tab on the Kynect site or calling Kynect's call center (855-459-6328), which is also available to help you sign up for coverage. The customer service call center (800-318-2596) can also help and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires most people to have health insurance, or pay a penalty. For 2017, the penalty for not having health insurance is 2.5 percent of your income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, with a maximum of $2,085 per household, whichever is higher.

There are a few exemptions, including:certain hardships, membership in some groups, some life-changing events, incarceration, if health coverage is considered unaffordable, or if household income is below the threshold for filing a tax return, according to

If you miss the deadlines, the only way to buy health insurance on the federal exchange is if you have a major life event, like marriage or a change of employment. Those who qualify for Medicaid can apply year round.

Kentucky had 70,542 people sign up for individual health plans on the federal exchange during the regular 2017 open enrollment period, which ran Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Last year at the same time, 68,319 Kentuckians had signed up for private plans through Kynect. Overall, around 82,000 people were enrolled in private plans in Kentucky last year, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

A separate CMS report said that between Nov. 1 and Christmas, 78 percent of the 67,915 Kentuckians who had signed up for coverage on the federal exchange received a tax credit to help pay for their policy, and the average credit was $275.

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