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Advocate: Kentucky Medicaid Enrollment "A Real Mess"

Greg Stotelmyer

A "real mess." That's how one health care advocate describes Kentucky's transition away from kynect, the state health insurance exchange that was hailed as a model for the nation.

Emily Beauregard, executive director with Kentucky Voices for Health, says she has heard numerous reports of people being "mysteriously disenrolled" from Medicaid, errors on applications and long waits for help.

When Kentucky's new Gov. Matt Bevin, ordered kynect dismantled by late this year, the Department for Community Based Services began overseeing Medicaid enrollment.

Beauregard says there are glitches in the system and not enough workers to handle the job.

"The wait time for the people who stay on the line is over two hours, but 6,000 to 7,000 calls a day go unanswered. That's a lot of people who can't get assistance," says Beauregard.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokesman Doug Hogan acknowledges there have been "difficulties" with the transition and says the cabinet is "working diligently with the contractor to correct problems and make the system perform as was intended."

Pikeville resident and Medicaid recipient Connie Holt, who has many chronic health conditions, says her efforts to change her insurance provider became a daily nightmare.

"I was in tears by the end of the day," says Holt. "I would make calls until my battery went dead on my phone and I'd have to plug it in to charge. Back and forth all day long."

Cara Stewart, who was Holt's "kynector" in the process, says it took her over two weeks of nearly daily efforts to get the change made for Holt, a process that would have taken five minutes last fall under kynect.

State representatives in the Democrat-controlled House are expected to vote soon on legislation that would keep kynect, and protect Medicaid expansion, which supporters say has led to a sharp decline in uninsured rates, fewer emergency room visits and more preventive care. Beauregard says yes votes from the House would make a strong statement.

"We know from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll that 72 percent of Kentuckians want to keep Medicaid expansion without any changes and twice as many Kentuckians want to keep kynect," she says.

But, Bevin and many Republican lawmakers say the state health insurance exchange is too expensive and how Medicaid is delivered to 1.3 million Kentuckians needs to be restructured.

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