New health insurance coverage assistance is now available for Kentucky workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade competition. The Kentucky Department for Workforce Investment received a federal grant of over $2.3 million to make the continuation of healthcare affordable for more workers certified under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
The new health care assistance program will be administered by the department’s Office of Employment and Training (OET). It will pay 65 percent of the cost of qualified health insurance coverage for up to three months. The program will help to “bridge the gap” until the individual can complete his registration for the primary healthcare assistance that is administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS program offers a Health Coverage Tax Credit of 65 percent for eligible trade affected workers. Enrollment in the IRS program may take three months and individuals previously had to pay 100 percent of the cost of their insurance during this period. For many workers the additional financial burden made it impossible to maintain their and their family’s healthcare.
“Implementation of Kentucky’s ‘gap filler’ program will make healthcare insurance more affordable for more of the approximately 5,400 Kentucky workers and their families who are currently receiving trade readjustment assistance under the TAA program alone. Kentucky is one of 14 states that received the U.S. Department of Labor grant to provide this much needed health coverage assistance,” said Workforce Investment Commissioner Laura E. Owens.
“Without this program, some workers would lose their health insurance and their eligibility to claim the IRS tax credit. This could be devastating for individuals with pre-existing conditions.”
The Kentucky Office of Insurance responded to the needs of trade-affected workers and encouraged insurers to offer a health plan option that would meet federal requirements to allow the participants to use the state gap filler assistance and to claim the 65 percent IRS tax credit for their premiums.
Kentucky’s qualified state-based coverage option is a group health insurance policy that guarantees enrollment for eligible individuals and does not impose restrictions for pre-existing conditions. The individual must have been covered by prior insurance for at least three months and have no more than a 63-day break in coverage. If the individual does not meet the guaranteed enrollment requirements, they may still be eligible for coverage but with a specified waiting period for coverage of pre-existing conditions.
During the 2004 Kentucky legislative session, Representative James Bruce of Hopkinsville and Representative Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon sponsored House Bill 633 to address the concerns of private health insurers. As a result, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is offering Blue Accesssm Trade Adjustment. The plan is specifically designed for individuals who are eligible under the guidelines for TAA and also for individuals, over 55 years old, receiving payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
“There is a great deal of stress and uncertainty when someone loses a job or is living on a fixed income and this option from Anthem will help provide some peace of mind during a difficult time. This is another example of the positive results that can come when state agencies, the federal government and Kentucky businesses all work together. We encourage those Kentuckians who are eligible for these benefits to take full advantage of this option and hope other insurance companies will offer qualified plans in the future,” said Martin Koetters, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Insurance.
“At Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we are committed to helping reverse the growing numbers of the uninsured by working in collaboration with state and federal agencies. We are committed to developing products like Blue Accesssm TAA and trust this new, affordable plan option will provide Kentuckians with the assurance that a health plan, which includes preventive care and prescription drug coverage, is now available in their time of need,” said Jude Thompson, vice president and general manager, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Kentucky’s gap filler and the IRS tax credit can be used to pay for other types of automatically qualified insurance including coverage under a COBRA continuation provision, a spouse’s employer-sponsored plan, an individual’s health insurance plan and state continuation coverage.
The registration form for both the Kentucky gap filler assistance and the IRS tax credit is available at the OET local offices. The OET local offices are listed on the Internet at http://oet.ky.gov/index.asp or call (502) 564-7456 for more information.
Learn more about OET, an agency of the Department for Workforce Investment in the Education Cabinet at www.workforce.ky.gov.
The Kentucky Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or call 502-564-6606.