The Herald Bulletin

December 12, 2013

Officials field questions on health care

Austin, Lanane host meeting to help residents

By Zach Osowski The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — The questions varied but confusion about the Affordable Care Act still seemed to be rampant among the people who showed up at an information meeting Wednesday evening.

Some wanted to know if they could get new coverage from the marketplace, some wondered what would happen to those who don’t have coverage under the new system.

Kathleen Falk, Region 5 director of the U.S. Health and Human Services, came to Anderson to help answer those questions. She and Deborah Hester, the owner of Plus One Enterprises in Anderson and a certified marketplace navigator, fielded questions from a group of about 30 people at Anderson Public Library.

A lack of available information on the government’s new health insurance plan was the reason two local state lawmakers, Rep. Terri Austin and Sen. Tim Lanane, decided to set up the meeting.

“We felt like this was important because we’ve had so many constituents reach out to us and express that they want more information,” Austin said. “Many legislators are taking it upon themselves to organize town hall meetings.”

Falk, whose region covers six states, including Indiana, said there were just less than 1 million Hoosiers without health insurance. More than 140,000 of those reside in Madison County. These are the type of people the new care act is specifically targeting.

“It’s important that we get together at events like this,” Falk said.

Falk and Hester provided all of the answers they could with other local health care representatives also adding comments.

Marlene Carey, the regional marketing officer for St. Vincent’s Northeast region, said people need to be careful about what provider they sign up for on the marketplace.

Currently there are four health care providers available in Indiana through the marketplace. But Carey said only two of those, MDwise and Anthem, have health care providers in central Indiana close to Anderson.

“If you use a St. Vincent health provider or hospital you’re going to want to sign up for MDwise,” Carey said. “But if you want a Community Health provider you want to go with Anthem. If you use the other two you’ll be driving a lot.”

There was also a lot of discussion about Medicaid expansion in Indiana. Twenty-six states have opted for the federal expansion of Medicaid, which provides health coverage to those below the poverty level. Indiana opted not to accept the federal expansion, which could hurt a lot of low-income Hoosiers.

Once the Indiana General Assembly gets back in session in January, Lanane said, he will ask for the state to expand Medicaid. He said not accepting the expansion hurts the very people the Affordable Care Act is trying to help.

Falk advised most of the people with questions to contact a local navigator, like Hester, who knows the ins and outs of the health care website. She said the site can be daunting for some people and a navigator can make the process of signing up easier.

Austin said she thought the information available was getting better and more Hoosiers are becoming aware of the need for health insurance. But she said a population that still needs to be reached is the 19-35 age group.

Falk said there are 260,000 Hoosiers in that age group without insurance. This is due to many of them feeling like health insurance is an unnecessary expense.

“I think they will eventually start paying attention to this,” Austin said. “But it’s taking them a little longer.”

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB or call him at 640-4847.

By the numbers Number of people signing up for the Federal Health Care rose last month 3,492 - Hoosiers who signed on for private coverage between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30 364,682 - Americans who signed up for private coverage as of Nov. 30 1.2 million - Number of sign-ups originally projected.