Residents shop the ‘marketplace’ for new healthcare options
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
Completing her first several hours of training to become a Certified Application Counselor (CAC), Gwen Bright, a member of Cummins Street Church of Christ, has learned that “no question is a dumb question,” regarding the historic implementation of the government funded Affordable Care Act.
Jane White of Prohealth Rural Health Services, Inc. held an Affordable Care Act seminar at Cummins Street Church of Christ on Sept. 30, the day before the historic open enrollment Oct. 1 of the government initiated Marketplace for healthcare. Photo by Kerri Bartlett
Previously a social worker of 40 years and a cancer survivor, Bright decided to become a CAC to give back and better help the community understand their healthcare options.
October 1 marked the commencement of ACA open enrollment, which allows Americans to “shop” for healthcare options in the “marketplace” to best meet their needs as an individual or family at www.healthcare.gov.
Prohealth Rural Health Services, Inc. held an informational community meeting at Cummins Street Church of Christ on Monday evening, hours before the open enrollment began at midnight Tuesday.
“It’s important to get informed about your healthcare choices,” said Jane White co-founder of Prohealth. “Everyone has the opportunity to shop the marketplace. It works with your income level and tax credit and you can even get exemptions.”
However, the website, which crashed on its opening day Tuesday, left some eager citizens still wondering about their healthcare options. White said that Prohealth received dozens of phone calls and took names and numbers to call customers back once the site resumed. She said that she is anxious for the site to be repaired so that she can begin helping applicants.
However, White predicted that many advisors will be needed to help educate the community on the new healthcare. She encouraged attendees at the seminar to volunteer to become CAC’s by participating in counselor training in order to help the general public explore healthcare options within the marketplace.
A Certified Applicant Counselors and Navigators, although both differ slightly in training hours and role in the community, both receive certification from the federal government to help educate applicants on the best plans available for their specific needs in the Marketplace. However, Navigators are funded by the federal government and are responsible for providing outreach opportunities within the community, while CAC’s are not.
White said that training is rigorous. She is currently conducting CAC training sessions with Bright and other volunteers.
“I am proud to be part of the team at Prohealth,” Bright said. “The ACA is a very defined piece of work. Everyone can have insurance.”
However, Jane’s husband, co-founder and president of Prohealth Dr. Ray White said that he fears that healthcare plans found on the marketplace will help some, while having an adverse effect on others.
“It will help men who have seemed to be more difficult to qualify for Medicaid compared to women. The wealthy will stay the same, and the middle class could be the hardest hit,” White said.
However, after exploring the marketplace previously to its first day and gathering more information about bronze, silver and gold plans, he says that he is cautious, but pleasantly surprised so far at the choices of premiums, deductibles and co-pays for the middle class.
“People must know what they are getting with the low premiums and high deductibles,” he said.
Dranda Whaley, Director of Outreach and Enrollment at Tennessee Primary Care Association, which houses about 10 Navigators, said that the association received about 100 phone calls at close of day Tuesday afternoon. The association is only one of two in Tennessee who house navigators, the other is South Eastern Economic Development (SEED) Corporation, which subcontracts with other organizations across the state.
“This is such a historic day. It’s amazing to know that this is happening,” Whaley said Tuesday. Many people who didn’t have health insurance because of preexisting conditions will be able to get their health needs met after January 1.
“Many of us in advocacy and the health care industry worried about those who are uninsured. It’s just amazing that most folks won’t have to worry about it again after January 1.”
If applicants enroll by Dec. 15, they will be insured by January 1. After December 15, applicants will be covered by the next month after enrollment. For example, if one enrolls after Dec. 15, his or her insurance will go into effect Feb. 1.
Navigators at TPCA can be reached at email@example.com or 1-800-343-3136. CAC’S at Prohealth can be contacted at 615-591-4750. To enroll or explore healthcare plans on the marketplace, visit www.healthcare.gov.
Posted on: 10/3/2013