Kentuckians should be patient with Affordable Care Act, but officials need to be impatient about sign-ups, Burch says

11/11/2013 07:56 AM

While Kentuckians need to give the Affordable Care Act a chance to work, Kentucky health officials shouldn’t be nearly as patient with the rate of those who are signing up for health insurance through the health exchange, a key lawmaker said.

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville and chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, said he considers the Affordable Care Act as a reform similar to the creation of Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

“People have to be patient with this. We’re the only country in the world — industrialized country — that (doesn’t) have universal health care for their people,” Burch said (1:00). “They don’t have to worry about if they get sick they’ll lose everything they’ve got. And they live two years longer than we do.”

Kentucky has been seen as one of the national models for a health exchange to match up the uninsured with coverage — either Medicaid or private insurance. Still, about 10 percent of those who are eligible for Medicaid through expansion and 2.1 percent of uninsured Kentuckians who would need private insurance have signed up since open enrollment began Oct. 1. (As of Monday, the state’s exchange signed up 33,561 of the 308,000 Kentuckians newly-eligible for Medicaid and 7,011 of the 332,000 other uninsured.)

Burch said he is afraid the numbers are lagging because people don’t know they have to sign up for health insurance by the end of March or they don’t know how to go about it.

“It bothers me because I want everybody to have access to health care,” Burch said. (3:20).

For instance, Burch said his daughter-in-law is uninsured and recently was diagnosed with throat cancer.

“Who pays for that? The taxpayer does,” Burch said (3:20). “Although they don’t think they do, they’re paying every nickel of that bill. It’s just like anybody else who doesn’t have health insurance — they go to the emergency room and their bill is taken care of.”

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