Accurate and unbiased information about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, seems to be a scarce commodity, particularly in Indiana. But several local organizations are working to make sure Fort Wayne residents have trustworthy information about how the law will affect Hoosiers.
My concern is there has not been enough good information available to people about what options are going to be available, said Mary Haupert, president and CEO of Neighborhood Health Clinics Inc. Most people are not like me – where it is their job to know what’s going on – and it’s very complicated.
Yes, there are things in the law that are really going to help a lot of people. There are things that are going to cost some people more money. People listening to the politicians may not get the whole picture. By the time this thing goes live in January, it’s really going to take a lot of people by surprise.
Haupert is one of the local experts who will be included in the panel of speakers at a town hall meeting sponsored by HealthVisions of Fort Wayne, the Indiana Minority Health Coalition and Covering Kids & Families of Indiana.
It’s about increasing education about the Affordable Health Care Act in our community, said Rennetta Williams, executive director of HealthVisions. It’s about how will the Affordable Care Act affect Indiana and how will it affect Allen County and what people need to know and what they need to do.
Williams said she has also invited Dr. Deborah McMahan, medical director of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health, state legislators and local attorney Douglas Powers to be at the public meeting to help answer questions from residents.
There are also several local organizations, including the Volunteer Center, Neighborhood Health Clinics and CANI, which help uninsured or underinsured people enroll in health care plans that meet the law’s guidelines.
It’s just real interesting. You go to other states and you hear tons about the law. There is much more excitement, said Jean Joley, executive director of the Volunteer Center. But in Indiana there is silence.
Most Hoosiers will continue to receive coverage through their employers, Medicare or Medicaid and will not enroll through the exchanges. People who are not insured or who have a plan that does not meet the law’s requirements can enroll in the exchange plans.
Open enrollment for the insurance programs starts Oct. 1, and coverage begins on Jan.1.
Gov. Mike Pence opted to participate in the federal exchanges rather than have Indiana set up its own.
Joley’s organization is enlisting volunteers to help enroll people and will hold an informational meeting on Tuesday for people interested in helping.
This is such a conservative area, but we are getting a lot of people who want to help get people signed up, Joley said. Our mantra is we are giving low- to moderate-income families access to health care. There are 56,000-plus people in Allen County that don’t have health insurance.
Haupert suggested anyone with some understanding of how health insurance works – a retired insurance agent, for example – would be well suited to help. The law refers to these people as navigators. The navigators will have to complete training and pass a test.
The problem is most of us depend on someone at work to explain the insurance plan to us and that’s the plan we get – there are no choices, Haupert said. But here there are choices and people are going to have to look at all the options and make a decision about what’s best for them and their family. And because it’s complicated people need to start thinking about it now.
Fortunately, there will be people in the community who are willing to walk people through the complicated process to ensure as many people as possible have health care coverage.