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A Closer Look at Who's Still Uninsured in Kentucky

Despite huge gains, around 300,000 Kentuckians remain uninsured, according to a new report.(Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky)
Despite huge gains, around 300,000 Kentuckians remain uninsured, according to a new report.(Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky)
August 15, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An estimated 300,000 Kentuckians still don't have health coverage, even as Kentucky has gained headlines for having one of the nation's largest drops in uninsured residents.

According to the results of a new survey from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, people of Latino heritage are four-times more likely to be uninsured. That doesn't surprise Miranda Brown, health outreach coordinator at the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic in Lexington. She said immigrants face a variety of challenges.

"Communication is one. They may not hear about it,” Brown said. "If they are immigrants, they may not understand that they qualify if they have some kind of status, and they may be just afraid to apply."

Even among documented workers, Brown said, some are denied eligibility because of system errors, while others aren't eligible for coverage because they're on temporary work visas.

The goal of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to help advocates improve their outreach programs. Brown said the state's health benefit exchange, Kynect, still needs more Spanish-speaking personal in its offices.

"I get calls from western Kentucky, all the way out in Paducah, to help people sign up on Kynect over the phone,” Brown said, "because there aren't people that they can go to locally."

She said language barriers along with the nuances of immigration often lead to misunderstandings and errors when enrolling people who are eligible.

"So, it has consequences for people,” Brown said. "If they don't have an assistor to help them through those glitches, it's tricky."

The survey also found that adults between the ages of 19 and 25 are two-times more likely to be uninsured. Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President Susan Zepeda said young adults often don't think about coverage until they have a health problem or a costly accident.

"That speaks to how important it is to have as many Kentuckians as possible covered by insurance,” Zepeda said. “So that the risk is spread across the broadest possible group."

According to Zepeda, most uninsured individuals are working low-income jobs, often without sick leave. She said this raises the question of whether the insurance process is accessible to people who work long hours.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY