By William K. Alcorn
People came to the Affordable Care Act workshop looking for answers about how they might benefit under the new national health care program.
The workshop, presented by Cincinnati Atty. Trey Daly, Ohio state director of Enroll America, also addressed the health-insurance marketplace through which eligible people can purchase insurance.
The goal of Enroll America is to get as many eligible people as possible to enroll for health insurance under ACA, Daly said.
Open enrollment for the health-insurance marketplace began Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 15 for people who want their insurance that takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. The final deadline for open enroll- ment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is March 15, 2014, for insurance that begins in February 2014, Daly said.
Among the 50-plus who attended the workshop at the Austintown library branch was Mary Lou Kerr of Youngstown, who receives health care through Medicare.
She said, however, she would like to get a less-expensive Medicare supplement plan that also covers dental care and prescription drugs — something her current plan does not.
“I started out paying a little over $200 a month for the supplemental plan and now I’m paying $350 — and it’s supposed to go up again next year, Kerr said.
Ruth and Hector Rivera of Girard have health care insurance under Medicare and Veterans Affairs, respectively, but their 21-year-old daughter, who goes to college and is unemployed, has no health insurance.
“We’re hoping she can get some sort of coverage through the Affordable Care Act. We’re gathering information,” Ruth Rivera said.
Jennefer Sweitzer of Vienna said her family, including her husband and two children, has no health insurance.
She said they can’t afford the health care insurance available from her husband’s place of employment, even for just him and their two children. She said she is not eligible because of a pre-existing condition. Neither are they eligible for Medicaid, she said.
Sweitzer came away from the workshop still with questions; but at least, she said, “I will be able to get coverage.”
Key provisions of the Affordable Care Act are that women can’t be charged more than men for health insurance and that coverage can’t be denied because of a pre-existing condition, said Daly.
Neither of Cathy Headley’s two part-time jobs offer health care insurance. She said she can’t afford to buy health insurance and is not eligible for Medicaid.
“I haven’t been sick for a long time, but one day I might need insurance,” said Headley, of Struthers. “I’d like to see if there is a program under the ACA that I can afford.”
The goal of the workshop is to give the attendees a better understanding of the ACA and the health-insurance marketplace, Daly said.
He described the ACA as one of the most-controversial pieces of legislation, perhaps in the history of the nation.
But, he said, “As I see it, it is beyond politics. It’s a life and death situation for many people.”
One-half of bankruptcies are caused by overwhelming medical debt. Some people have lost loved ones because of the lack of health insurance, Daly said.
“It’s very frustrating to work with families who don’t have options. That’s why I’m incredibly excited about ACA,” he said.
He said the health-insurance marketplace offers plans in Ohio that people can tailor to their medical needs and what they can afford.
“Some people are going to pay more for health insurance, but most of the eligible people will pay less,” he said.
Daly admitted that the government’s online system to help people navigate the enrollment process was not ready to handle the onslaught of interest Oct. 1, the first day of open enrollment.
But he said, Enroll America is hearing that people are now beginning to get through the process.
Daly encouraged people to enroll and find out if they are eligible for coverage under the ACA or Medicaid. He said there are about 1.3 million uninsured Ohio residents under 65 who could benefit.
He said they can enroll online by going to healthcare.gov or by calling toll-free at 1-800-318-2596 for information and how to enroll via paper application.
He said people with Medicare, Medicaid or VA benefits don’t have to do anything. The health-insurance marketplace is not a factor unless the insurance is not affordable, he said.
“I think ACA will survive and succeed. Nothing like this has ever happened before. This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Daly said.