Fixes to Kansas’ online health insurance marketplace coming this week

Leader of effort to enroll Kansans says consumers unable to purchase coverage on the website since it launched Oct. 1

0 | Government, Congress, Health Care Delivery, Health Reform, Insurance

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Cathy Harding, executive director of the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved.

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— A key player in efforts to steer uninsured and underinsured Kansans toward the new health insurance marketplace says she’s been told that most of the system’s troubles should be corrected yet this week.

“The website is still having problems. But we’ve been told that things should significantly improve within the next 48 hours,” said Cathy Harding, chief executive with the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved.

Officials at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ regional office in Kansas City, Mo. provided the assurances to Harding during a conversation on Tuesday.

The marketplace's website, heathcare.gov — which serves as the enrollment portal in Kansas and 24 other states that declined to establish their own — crashed shortly after its Oct. 1 launching and has been largely inoperable ever since.

“Basically, the enrollment piece of the system was built, thinking it would need to able to handle 50,000 people being on the site at any one time,” Harding said. “But when it went up, some 250,000 people were trying to enroll and the system was overwhelmed.”

No one in Kansas, she said, has been able to enroll electronically. "There have been some who've enrolled using the paper applications, which are available," Harding said.

Harding is leading a consortium of state organizations that recently was awarded a $525,000 grant for coordinating a statewide effort to help people “navigate” the marketplace and the online enrollment process.

“Right now, we have between 75 and 80 who’ve been through the navigator training and who are certified,” she said. Nearly 135 more are in various stages of completing the training.

Harding said she and the consortium’s navigators are telling would-be enrollees to be patient.

“I think it’s pretty clear that there’s a lot of anxiety over how this is going to affect people personally,” she said. “That’s certainly understandable, but, really, they have until the middle of December to actually enroll. If someone were to enroll tomorrow or if they enrolled on Dec. 15, either way, the coverage would start Jan. 1. So there’s still time.”

After Dec. 15, she said, people who enroll on or before the 15th of January, February, or March, will see their coverage begin on the first of the next month. Open enrollment ends Mar. 31.

Coverage for someone who enrolls between March 16 and March 31 will begin May 1.

The consortium’s members are:

  • Kansas Hospital Association,
  • Kansas Association of Local Health Departments,
  • Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansa,s
  • Kansas Area Agencies on Aging Association, and
  • Kansas Insurance Department.

Harding said would-be enrollees also have the option of reviewing the health plans available to them and estimating their premium costs for so-called "Silver" plans via InsureKS.org, developed by the Kansas Insurance Department.

“You can punch in your numbers and get an estimate on what your premiums are likely to be,” she said. “But you won’t be able to actually enroll.”

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On October 1, 2013, the Kansas marketplace opened and began offering a variety of health insurance plans, and their costs vary up to 20% across the state. KHI’s map provides a view of “benchmark plan” costs across seven rating areas in Kansas.

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Estimates for all plans are available via a report from the Kansas Health Institute. (KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the institute.)

Sayre Shuck, a navigator at the First Care Clinic in Hays said she’s had trouble generating much local interest in the marketplace. “I don’t know why that is,” she said. “The website not working hasn’t helped matters. I’ve tried to get on and set up an account and all I get is a white screen.”

Shuck said she’s scheduled her first enrollment consultation for Oct. 21. “I just think it makes sense to give the system time to adjust,” she said.

In the meantime, Shuck said, she’s been conferring with patients who likely will be eligible for subsidies or tax credits through the marketplace.

Deborah Chambers is the navigator grant coordinator in Wichita. There, interest has been intense.

“On Monday, we did a call-in thing with KSN Channel 3 from 4 to 7 p.m. — they ran a ticket-tape across the bottom of the screen that said people could call in with questions,” she said. “We had six phone lines with six navigators, and it was non-stop. Every time one of them would finish and hang up, the phone would ring.

“People were calling the station, saying the phones weren’t working because they couldn’t get through,” Chambers said. “I think it shows just how much pent up demand there is out there.”

Harding provided KHI News Service with a list of organizations with one or more navigator on staff (below).


Obamacare Navigators in Kansas

CityOrganizationAddressPhone
AlmaCommunity Health Ministry206 W 1st(785) 765-2250
BeloitArea Agency Aging and Disabilities1110 N Independence(785) 738-3227
ChanuteNeosho Memorial Regional Medical Center629 S Plummer(620) 432-5444
Dodge CitySouth West Kansas Area Agency on Aging236 San Jose Dr(620) 225-8230
EmporiaFlint Hills Community Health Center420 W 15th Ave(620) 342-4864
Garden CityArea Mental Health Center531 Campusview St(620) 275-0625
HaysFirst Care Clinic, Inc.105 W 13th(785) 621-4990
HaysNorthwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging510 W 29th St, Ste B(785) 628-8204
HutchinsonPrairie Star Health Center1600 N Lorraine, Ste 110(620) 663-8484
HutchinsonReno County Health Department209 West 2nd Ave(620) 669-2900
LawrenceDouglas Co Health Department200 Maine(785) 843-3060
LawrenceHealth Care Access330 Maine(785) 841-5760
LawrenceLawrence-Dg Co Health Department200 Maine Street, Ste B(785) 843-3060
ManhattanArea Agency on Aging and Disability401 Houston St(785) 776-9294
NewtonHealth Ministries Clinic209 S Pine St(316) 284-6465
OlatheHealth Partnership Clinic607 S Clairborne Rd(913) 730-3687
OttawaElizabeth Layton Center, Inc.2537 Eisenhower Rd(785) 242-3780
PittsburgCommunity Health Center of SEK3011 N Michigan(620) 240-5096
SalinaSalina Family Healthcare Center651 E Prescott(785) 825-7251
Smith CenterSmith County Health Department119 S Main St(785) 282-6656
TopekaShawnee County Health Agency1615 SW 8th St(785) 251-2751
TopekaValeo Behavioral Health Care2401 SW 7th St(785) 783-3124
WamegoCommunity Health Ministry407 Ash St(785) 456-7872
WellingtonSumner County Health Department217 W 8th St(620) 326-2774
WichitaCenter for Health and Wellness2707 E 21st N(316) 612-6892
WichitaCentral Plains AAA2622 W Central(316) 660-5134
WichitaGraceMed Health Clinic1122 N Topeka(316) 866-2015
WichitaHunter Health Clinic2318 E Central(316) 262-3611



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