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Kynect will sell federally subsidized health insurance through Jan. 31, but there will be little or no advertising to tell people about it

By Al Cross – Kentucky Health News

Kynect, the online marketplace where Kentuckians can buy federally subsidized health insurance, will remain open for enrollment through Jan. 31. But you will see little if any more advertising for it.

The new administration of Gov. Matt Bevin directed Louisville advertising agency Doe-Anderson Inc. on Dec. 18 to cancel pending advertising, a Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman told Deborah Yetter of The Courier-Journal. “The campaign was funded with federal money,” Yetter notes.

“Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear on Nov. 2 sought approval for an extension of the Doe-Anderson contract beyond Nov. 30, but it was rejected by the state Finance and Administration Cabinet,” Yetter reports. “Ditto said the Bevin administration does not know why the finance cabinet rejected the extension ‘but there does not appear to be any legal basis to continue the contract.’ Pamela Trautner, a spokeswoman for the finance cabinet, was unable to provide further information Wednesday as to why the contract extension was rejected.”

Bevin was elected Nov. 3 after promising to dismantle Kynect, a state-operated health-insurance exchange that has been cited as a national model. He says it adds no value that cannot be obtained through the federal exchange used by most states.

Kynect advocates note that Kentucky insurance companies and other stakeholders wanted a state-based exchange, partly to ease troubleshooting, and that moving to a federal exchange will reduce by 75 percent the funding for “kynectors,” advisers who help people unfamiliar with health insurance buy it. They also note that the federal exchange charges a 3.5 percent fee on each policy sold, while Kynect is funded by a 1 percent fee on all health-insurance policies sold in the state.

Sheila Schuster, chairwoman of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of health advocacy groups, told Yetter she was disappointed that the ad campaign was canceled before the end of the enrollment period. “It really makes no sense,” she said. “Why would the state not want people to know they have this option?”

One critic of federal health-care reform, Lexington insurance agent John Bird, said on Facebook that ads after Dec. 15 were a waste of money because that was the deadline to buy policies that would take effect Jan. 1, and “the great majority of Kentuckians” who use Kynect buy policies to take effect at the start of the year.

Dan Burgess, director of public relations at Doe-Anderson, told Yetter that the agency had been asked to refer questions to state officials.

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