by Ben Sheffler
With many of the estimated 59,000 uninsured people in Escambia County and millions nationwide attempting to register for health care at the new Health Insurance Marketplace website (http://healthcare.gov), there is the potential for confusion and misinformation.
An Affordable Care Act Town Hall Forum on Nov. 15, put on by the WSRE-TV program “Aware,” hosted by Dee Dee Sharp, made an attempt at “Getting the Facts Straight” to an audience of about 40 people, most of whom submitted questions to an expert panel of guests. The program will air on Nov. 23 at 3 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 1 p.m. on WSRE-TV channel 23.
“If we don’t get everyone in the game, it doesn’t work,” said Andrew Rubin, the vice president for medical center clinical affairs at New York University Lagone Medical Center and host of HealthCare Connect on Sirius Satellite Radio. “It is the healthy people that are subsidizing the unhealthy.”
A supporter of health care reform and the ACA, Rubin said he never expected such an “abysmal” rollout.
“If it doesn’t work soon, they’re going to have to scrap the whole thing,” he said. “This is the land of opportunity…we have a fantastic health care system…[but] we can do better.”
As of late October, Florida and 24 other states have chosen to not expand Medicaid coverage, but Gov. Rick Scott does eventually support an expansion, according to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation website.
Stephen Rome, an advocacy volunteer and spokesperson for AARP, said that 1.1 million people in Florida, including 300,000 children, are left without insurance due to the state not expanding Medicaid.
“To me, that’s unacceptable,” he said.
According to National Public Radio’s website, the ACA expands Medicaid eligibility to adults under age 65 with a “modified adjusted” gross income that is slightly lower than $16,000, or $32,500 for a family of four.
Rubin said that the only way Florida will expand Medicaid is if people contact their state representatives and urge them to expand it.
For Medicaid information, visit http://mymedicaid-florida.com or call 1-866-762-2237.
Cory Brown, a licensed navigator for the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace, said the issues with the website have been frustrating but that numerous applications have gone through.
“We’re able to guide them through the process to make an educated decision,” she said.
Brown is one of just three navigators in the ten-county area, of which there are only four offices, and she can be reached at 813-974-7305.
Audience member Larry Huntly, who’s on Medicare and supports the ACA, said he attended the forum because he’s concerned about people who don’t have insurance.
“I’m just discouraged,” he said. “I just don’t understand why Americans won’t support a bill that provides insurance to everyone.”
Although children can remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, they can purchase their own plan.
For people applying for insurance through the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace, they must do so by Dec. 15 in order for coverage to start on Jan.1.
Enrollment on the Marketplace is open through March 31, and if someone remains uninsured after that time, they face a $95 tax penalty. The penalty increases to $325 per adult in 2015 and $695 in 2016 and thereafter.