COLUMBIA — James Luke Johnson II came to the Columbia Public Library on Wednesday night for answers, answers he wasn't able to get on his own from HealthCare.gov.
On Oct. 1, he received a letter from his health insurance provider saying his current plan would be discontinued Dec. 1 because of new minimum coverage requirements outlined in the new health care law.
Johnson has several health conditions resulting from an aneurysm at birth. He takes several prescription drugs, and in particular, his ADD medication wasn't covered under his current plan and cost him twice as much as his monthly health insurance premium.
So Johnson wanted an answer: Was there an affordable plan available for him in the new individual marketplace that would cover at least some of the cost of his expensive medications?
Johnson was one of about 50 people who attended a informational forum about the new insurance marketplace, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Columbia Public Library, the Family Health Center and the Voluntary Action Center.
The three panelists were:
- Aaron Swaney, outreach and enrollment specialist at the Family Health Center
- Karen Edison, MU Center for Health Policy director
- Mary Timmel of the Small Business Majority
Questions such as Johnson's were among several raised by people looking for accurate information about the new health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.
The answer Johnson got: You'll know after you fill out an application, and the preferred method is to submit this application is through HealthCare.gov.
All three panelists suggested Johnson seek out a federal-certified navigator or application counselor.
The three panelists spent roughly the first hour discussing the finer points of the health exchanges, benefits and requirements.
As a certified application counselor, Swaney said he talks to between 10 and 12 people a day and that about six people every week try to fill out an application. He said he was recently able to get through a full application online in 45 minutes.
Edison offered some historical context to the years-long march toward health care reform. From 1999 to 2001, she was a health policy staff member of the then Republican majority on the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee in the U.S. Senate. She said that many of the reforms discussed then, including the need for an individual mandate, are included the new health care law.
After the panelists spoke, the audience had the chance to ask questions of the panelists.
One audience member, who currently has her own individual coverage, asked if there were any plans available in the new marketplace that could be tied to health savings accounts.
Swaney said he had seen some bronze plans that included this feature.
Another audience member asked a question that she said had been making the rounds earlier on Trib Talk: Were there special religious exemptions from the new health care law, specifically for Muslims?
Swaney said that there was no change regarding which religions are exempt.