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More than 100 people crammed into Stratton Center’s main community room Thursday, avid for news about how the Affordable Care Act would touch their lives and their wallets.
The presenter, Shelby County native Kerri Richardson, communications director for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, said she was amazed and pleased at the number of people who turned out to hear heroverview of the state of the uninsured in Kentucky, as well as how the Affordable Care Act works.
“I was thrilled with the turnout, especially with the number of people who just wanted to find out more information,” she said.
The new health-care law and the statewide insurance exchange that is part of it go into effect in October, so the presentation was open to the public as part of the program for the monthly meeting of the Shelby County Retired Teachers Association.
SCRT member Brenda Richardson said organizers were pleased by the turnout.
“All the seating was taken, and a man at church said he couldn't find a parking place and went home,” Brenda Richardson said in an E-mail to The Sentinel-News. Many brought pen and paper and took notes. I was pleased with the diversity of the group; Lee Sisk and his wife, two pastors, drywall man, Kroger cashier… .A reporter from the Atlanta Journal [-Constitution] was interviewing the governor and learned about the meeting and asked if she could attend. A woman from state government who worked to bring insurance providers to the program attended; I think she must live in Shelbyville.”
That woman Richardson referred to is Janie Miller, former cabinet secretary for Health and Family Services, who is now directing one of the insurance groups serving the state – Kentucky Health Cooperative.
“It's new; we are offering statewide coverage,” she said.
The crowd heard such details as how to get ballpark estimates of what their premiums would be, based on income, tobacco use and a few other factors by visiting the state’s Web site, www.kynect.ky.gov.
Under the new law, pre-existing health conditions no longer will leave people ineligible for insurance, Richardson said, a consideration that prevented many people from obtaining insurance in the past.
Richardson said that although not all providers will offer individual coverage, any individual plans will have at least two providers with different options.
So far, 17 states have unveiled pricing for insurance coverage, as part of the Affordable Care Act, which goes into full effect in 2014, and states that without health insurance will have to pay a penalty.
Although Richardson did not discuss specific premium amounts, she said the goal is to make health insurance more affordable to more people than in historically has been. The state has launched its Kentucky Healthcare Connection, Kynect, and has rolled out Kynect.ky.gov.
And she stressed that open enrollment in Kynect is from October through March, so people don’t have to panic about having to take action right away, but can take their time to check out different options.
Plans are labeled gold, silver, or bronze based on how much the buyer will have to pay out of pocket. A gold plan costs more in premiums but has lower deductibles. On the Kynect Web site, price estimates for a premium for a family of four making less than $48,000 per year is $252 per month; and an individual making $20,000 per year might pay $67 per month.
The site urges people to remember they must enroll before March 31, 2014, to avoid paying a fine.
What information is needed?
Those attending the meeting wanted to know more about what kinds of factors would be taken into consideration in determining eligibility.
“The only things are your household size, your age and your income [and tobacco use], those sorts of things,” Richardson said. “When you go onto the kynect Web site, it will guide you through, to the places that can give you a good health insurance plan. They will all cover what are called the 10 essential health benefits.”
Richardson told the crowd that people who are already insured won’t be affected.
“This won't affect you if you have health insurance through your job, or if you have vets care, or whatever,” she said. “The folks we are trying to reach right now are the six-hundred and forty-thousand uninsured people in Kentucky.”
Training for call center
One person asked if personnel who will be taking calls on the topic will have all the answers for public queries by October.
“We're working on that,” Richardson said. “Training is on its way. The call center is already active. You can call them anytime, and they will speak to you in English or Spanish. But even without that, don't think you have to sign up October first. Plans don't take affect until January first at the earliest. You can sign up as late as December fifteenth, and your plan can be activated January first.
“We have a lot of questions we still have to get our folks trained to answer.”
Richardson chuckled as she concluded the hour-long presentation.
“You all don't need to look scared,” she said. “I'm counting on you take what you've heard tonight and tell people, because there is a real hunger for this information.”
Shelby County resident Cathy Cook said she said glad she came to the meeting.
“I think it was very informative; there were a lot thing that I wasn't aware of,” she said. “We have insurance, but I wanted to learn more, because there are others in our family that don't.”
Sarah and Ronald Overall said they also enjoyed Richardson’s presentation.
“I thought it was real good,” Sarah Overall said. “I know a lot of my friends and family who aren't covered, so I'll be passing this word along to them.”
Ohio Valley Education Cooperative CEO Leon Mooneyhan, a member of the SCRTA, said he thought the program’s overview was good basic information, and a good opportunity to get that information out to the public.
“I was pleasantly surprised that this many people were interested,” he said, “and I guess we should have known that if one in six are uninsured.”