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Dozen sign up for health insurance

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State officials say 1,241 from Shelby have signed up

By Lisa King

With the deadline of March 31 just around the corner before open enrollment ends, a handful of people headed out Thursday to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Barbara Gordon, director of social services at the Kentucky Regional Planning and Development Agency (KIPDA), said that 12 people were enrolled, with the help of KIPDA employees, at the Shelby County Extension Office.

“Everything has gone smoothly today,” she said.

“Most of the people coming through day were new to the process and just wanted some help with signing up.”

Gordon said the event will not be the last for people to sign up in Shelby County with the help of KIPDA personnel.

“We will be scheduling more; people can check on dates and times on our Web site,” Gordon said.

The new health-care law is designed to provide health insurance to many Americans who didn’t have access to it, couldn’t afford it or were denied insurance because of their age or status of their health.

But it also requires everyone to have insurance – either through an employer or the state system – or to pay a penalty. Some states – including Kentucky – have expanded their Medicaid roles and set up health exchanges to provide these opportunities.

Those who don’t sign up for insurance will have to pay $95 or 1 percent of his or her gross income, whichever is greater.

The deadline for businesses to enroll has been pushed back to 2015.

Kerri Richardson, communications director for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, said that as of Thursday and since Oct. 1, more than 212,000 Kentuckians have signed up for health care through kynect, the state’s exchange.

“That’s about sixteen hundred per day,” she said.

Richardson said that 1,241 people have signed up in Shelby County.

“When we started, an estimated six-hundred forty thousand Kentuckians were uninsured,” she said. “The governor has reminded folks that this is a long-term process; it may take a couple years to get everyone insured.  However, signing up by the deadline if you don't have insurance now will save you in tax penalties, which get greater every year.”

Richardson said she doesn’t expect anyone from the public to have any trouble signing up.

“On the whole, kynect has been remarkably smooth and has served as a national model for a strong state health benefits exchange,” she said. “Kynect has seen more than one million unique visitors to the Web site and nearly half a million calls to the call center.”

KIPDA employee Mona Huff said it would be really helpful for anyone who hasn’t signed up to come out and get help from KIPDA personnel.

“They [KIPDA staff] are willing to do whatever they can for people,” she said. “In fact, if folks show up and they don’t have everything they need, they [volunteers] are willing to either make a personal appointment with them or call them on the phone or fax them something. They are really, really helpful folks.”

Gordon echoed that sentiment Thursday.

“Anyone who needs help can just contact us.”

For more info about upcoming signup sessions, visit www.kipda.org.