Affordable Health Fair explores health insurance options, living healthy

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 9:38 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — When Christopher Curren was diagnosed with colon cancer, he was uninsured and worried about how he was going to pay for his treatment.

A resident at the senior living facility Oak Towers, Curren attended the Affordable Health Fair on Wednesday night and learned about his options.  

"I like to stay on top of my health," Curren said. 

Curren has started using Medicaid since his diagnosis, but he explored other health care options at the fair along with other attendees.

More than 20 people circled the tables at the Affordable Health Fair. Each table featured a different local health care organization, including the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Midwest Special Needs Trust and Peoples' Visioning.

Zenn Watts, a member of the Columbia Vision Commission, explained the role of Peoples' Visioning to attendees. 

"We have some advanced ideas about how to stay healthy and keep our wallets from being struck dry," Watts said. 

These ideas included encouraging people to grow food in gardens of their own and using benches around the city to interact with people, which helps promote mental health. 

Once everyone filed in, Vera Massey, nutrition and health education specialist for  MU Extension, gave a presentation about the Affordable Care Act.

Massey did not discuss the whole health care act but focused on the parts that affected Missouri residents. Topics included new consumer health insurance protections, premium costs, rate review, tax changes and the benefits of health insurance. 

Massey encouraged attendees to visit the Health Insurance Marketplace  online. 

"It is a place to go to check what options you have and compare the costs," Massey said. 

Massey later was joined by three health care professionals who talked about their jobs and how the health care act has affected them.

While the panel said insurance was important, it also stressed how eating right and exercising keeps people healthy.

"(The health care act) is more reasonable health insurance, but there are people who are still going to fall through the cracks," Massey said. "We have to take care of ourselves and become more educated and advocates of creating change." 

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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