Tuesday was Senior Day at the Kentucky State Fair, and tens of thousands of individuals age 55 and above came by the busload to the fairgrounds to take advantage of the $1 admission available. It’s a great day to observe parents, grandparents and grandchildren wandering the grounds together through all the attractions the fair has to offer and enjoying the fantastic weather.
Nowhere is the senior crowd more noticeable than in South Wing B at Health Horizons, where the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, KentuckyOne Health, Humana, and a variety of other healthcare-related organizations are set up to answer questions and offer free health screenings. The senior population loves their healthcare and they are a savvy, well-informed bunch about all issues surrounding access to care.
One of the busiest stops in this concourse is at the kynect booth. Returning for its third year in a row, the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange is the locally grown version of Obamacare, referred to as kynect. Unlike a majority of the states, Kentucky does run its own health exchange, and has been one of the national leaders in helping people to access affordable healthcare.
With more than 500,000 Kentuckians enrolled in plans through kynect, there is rarely a dull moment for staff or assisters who work the Exchange’s booth at the fair. The Affordable Care Act is a politically polarizing topic to some, particularly in a red state such as Kentucky, but criticism is not something heard often at the fair. The comments are mostly all positive, as generally three out of every four enrollees had no health insurance prior to signing up with kynect.
Many simply want to pass along a heartfelt thank you for having gained health coverage. Before passage of the Affordable Care Act, those with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage by insurers or charged considerably higher premiums. That is all gone now, and for those without other options for healthcare their eligibility with kynect is based upon income and family size. The vast majority of those who apply are eligible for some level of payment assistance, special discounts or even free coverage.
In only two years, the benefits of kynect are already noticeable. According to a Gallup sampling released this month, the Commonwealth has seen an 11.4 percent decrease in its uninsured rate, falling from 20.4 percent in 2013 to just 9 percent in the first six months of 2015.
It is positive indicators like that and an ever-growing number of enrollees that drives a steady stream of traffic to the kynect booth at the fair. That and a really nice tote bag.
Part of any successful outreach campaign is getting your message out, and since 2013 the primary giveaway item utilized by the Exchange is a branded tote bag with kynect scenery on both sides in vivid blue, with a bright yellow sun, and its call center phone number and Web address on the side panels.
This item has been extremely recognizable at the fair for three years running. Walk out on the Midway and it’s hard not to see these bags on peoples’ arms and hanging from baby strollers. With so many free trinkets and items to purchase, a good bag to put it all in comes in handy.
In 2013, staff distributed 23,000 bags before plans or pricing for the health program were even known. In 2014, that number was surpassed, as 26,000 totes were given away. This year at the fair, kynect brought along their new digital charging station. It allows visitors to plug-in up to 10 digital phones or other electronic devices, and re-charge them in 15-20 minutes. While waiting, folks can take a digital picture of themselves, and upload it to Facebook or send it to their e-mail.
In terms of tote bags, prior to Senior Day more than 16,000 of the 22,000 bags that had been delivered to Health Horizons prior to the fair beginning were already distributed. They’ve gotten a resupply since then, so there is no worry about running out, but things look positive for kynect to break its distribution record once again. That’s a result they hope to emulate with enrollees in their health plans when the 2016 Open Enrollment Period begins on November 1, 2015.