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Some Kentuckians will get to keep current coverage

Roger Alford, Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Some of the 280,000 Kentuckians whose insurance policies don't comply with the Affordable Care Act will be able to keep their plans, at least for another year.

Kentucky Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark told lawmakers Tuesday that three major insurance companies — Humana, United Healthcare and Assurant — have chosen to extend existing policies.

Clark said she didn't know how many people that would affect.

About 130,000 Kentuckians have individual policies that don't comply with the federal health care reforms. Another 150,000 people are enrolled in small group policies that don't conform. All were on track to have their existing policies discontinued until President Barack Obama granted a potential reprieve earlier this month.

Facing intense political pressure, Obama announced Nov. 14 that insurance companies could continue offering existing polices for another year even if they don't meet minimum standards of the law.

Clark, testifying before the Joint Banking and Insurance Committee, said two of Kentucky's biggest insurers — Anthem and Bluegrass Family Health — opted not to continue to existing policies.

State Sen. Tom Buford, the Nicholasville Republican who co-chairs the committee, said many lawmakers and their constituents have been frustrated by the gawky implementation of the health care reforms, and that the provision stripping Kentuckians of their existing plans has exacerbated that.

"I think this is a program to get the uninsured insured and the insured uninsured," Buford said, earning chortles from his GOP colleagues at the committee meeting Tuesday morning.

Gov. Steve Beshear said the decision about whether to honor existing policies that didn't meet requirements of the health care reforms was left to insurance companies because they had already invested heavily into developing new coverage plans that do meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Kentucky has been receiving good reviews for its handling of the health care changes so far. More than 400,000 people have completed pre-screenings for medical coverage through the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, Kentucky's online insurance marketplace.

As of last week, 45,622 people have signed up for Medicaid coverage and 10,800 had enrolled in insurance plans. Coverage is set to begin on Jan. 1.

Kentucky, which set up its own insurance exchange, has avoided the widespread technical glitches that have plagued the federal system.

Beshear issued an executive order last year calling for Kentucky to create its online marketplace where residents can shop for insurance coverage. The state received more than $250 million from the federal government to set it up.