AP NEWS

More health insurance options in Kansas for next year

November 3, 2019 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents using the federal marketplace for individual health insurance will see more options than ever for 2020, and some plans are less expensive than 2019.

KCUR reports that the downside for 2020 is that for the second year in a row, consumers must foot the full bill for most out-of-network care.

Two new insurers are now in Kansas offering health plans in some of the state’s most populous counties. Meanwhile, Ambetter, which is already active in the Kansas City area, is expanding to 12 more counties in southeast and central Kansas.

Across Kansas, five insurers are offering 82 plans next year, the most since the marketplace launched in 2014. Availability varies by county, but it’s a big increase from the three insurers offering 23 plans this year.

Enrollment began Friday and runs through Dec. 15.

Counselors and navigators across the state offer free guidance on comparing plans and applying. University of Kansas professor Jean Hall, director of the Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies, encouraged people to work with navigators.

“It is relatively easy to compare plans, but you still have to do a lot of legwork,” Hall said.

Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in New Jersey, said Kansas mirrors the national trend with the addition of more insurers and plans. She described companies as “bullish” right now.

“They’re entering the market in more places and they’re offering more things,” she said. “There’s a lot of optimism.”

But preferred provider organization plans are disappearing. The lack of PPOs can be especially bad for people who need specialized care, Hall said.

“If people have different types of chronic conditions, one of their specialists may be in network but the other one may not be. And that can be a real problem,” Hall said.

New insurers in this year’s market in Kansas are Oscar Insurance Company and Cigna Health & Life Insurance. They join Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas, Ambetter (also known as Centene subsidiary Sunflower State Health Plan) and Medica.