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Kansas officials brace for health care roll-out

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 30, 2013, at 8:14 p.m.

Kansas Insurance Department and health officials are braced for uncertainty Tuesday when the federal health insurance exchange for Kansans goes live online.

The exchange, also known as a marketplace, will offer eligible state residents a new way to buy insurance and qualify for federal subsidies to pay for it under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The website for the federal exchange is www.healthcare.gov.

The state insurance department has also established an informational website at www.insureKS.org to help people who have questions.

Department spokesman Bob Hanson said staff members there aren’t sure what to expect and will be waiting along with the rest of the country to see how the system roll-out goes on its first day.

The insurance department will be limited to more or less an advisory role in the change. Gov. Sam Brownback and the state Legislature, dominated by Republican opponents of the health care act, declined to have Kansas set up its own exchange, making it almost entirely a federally-run system here.

Still, if people call the insurance department with questions or problems with the new exchange, “our consumer assistance people will do whatever they can to help them,” Hanson said.

Kansas residents can contact the consumer assistance division at 800-432-2484 or 785-296-7829.

Also available are “navigators” associated with local nonprofit clinics, including Wichita’s GraceMed Clinic, which has hired four navigators and plans to add two more.

Dave Sanford, chief executive officer of GraceMed, said he’s not sure how many people will call for insurance help Tuesday, but the clinic has added an extra phone line to handle the traffic if it’s heavy. Also, uninsured people who come to the clinic for treatment will be informed of their options for seeking insurance help, he said.

“My concern is a lot of people, even with all the articles and all the buildup, don’t know what it’s about,” he said.

On the eve of the big change, Insurance Commissioner Sandy Prager, Hanson and other members of Prager’s staff were at the Topeka Public Library on Monday holding informational meetings for several hundred people on the ACA roll-out.

Topeka was the eighth community they have visited out of 13 where they plan to hold meetings by Oct. 22. They’ll be in Independence on Wednesday, Emporia on Thursday, Garden City on Oct. 16, Liberal on Oct. 17 and Kansas City, Kan., on Oct. 22.

The full schedule is available at www.insureKS.org.

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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