JoAnn Suter just wanted to get the right answers.
The 60-year-old retired accountant had followed health care reform in the early days pretty closely but had found it difficult to track the law as the political bickering escalated.
On Thursday, Suter said she was glad to hear a straightforward presentation of how Kentucky's version of the Affordable Care Act would work. Suter was one of about 100 people who came to an event co-sponsored by the AARP, the Lexington Fayette County Health Department, the Fayette County Extension Office and health advocacy groups.
Suter, who has private insurance, said she was ready to explore her choices to see if she might get a better deal. "I just want to see my options."
Although the nation is about six weeks into the much-maligned, oft-talked about implementation of health care reform, people remain unsure how things are working. Questions at the forum ranged from specific queries about unique family circumstances to more global questions like "When is open enrollment?" (It began Oct. 1 and will end March 31, 2014.)
There are a lot of Kentuckians with a vested interest in learning more. The state estimates that there are 640,000 people eligible to sign up for health insurance for the first time under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The Lexington event was one of five sponsored by AARP around the state. According to the state, 18.5 percent of people living in Fayette County, or about 46,000 people, are currently without health insurance. The federal website, which is handling the enrollment of 36 states, has been troubled with technical problems. The 14 state websites have fared better, and Kentucky has been held up as an example about what can go right. Altogether, about 40,000 people have signed up for health insurance in Kentucky.
Laurie Bruegge, 43, hopes to soon be one of them. For years, Bruegge has worked minimum-wage jobs, including at Long John Silver's. The challenges of dealing with a developmentally delayed son has made keeping a job difficult. She came to the forum with her mother, Kay Selter, who had taken to giving medical treatments such as mammograms to her daughter for birthday and holiday gifts.
After hearing the specifics of what's being offered through the state program, Bruegge was hopeful she would be eligible for Medicaid, a free, government health insurance offered to low income families.
She couldn't quite put into words what it would mean to finally have health care. "I just really need it," she said.
Tihisha Rawlins, who led the presentation for the AARP, fielded all kinds of questions during the hour-long question and answer session. She said people just need to get on the website, KyNect.Ky.Gov, and check their options.
Still, the process is a bit daunting. Only one person raised a hand to say they felt comfortable getting onto the site and looking at their options on their own. All the rest opted to stay and have some one-on-one help.
Either way, Rawlins said, it's a positive that the answers are available.
"That's the good thing. You can get on Kynect and check things out for yourself," she said.What is Kynect?
Under the Affordable Care Act, every American with few exceptions will be required to enroll in a health insurance plan or face a penalty. Some will be qualified under government funded programs, such as Medicaid, which are based on income. Others will sign up for private insurance.
In Kentucky people can shop for certified plans through a website, KyNect.Ky.Gov, and receive subsidized rates if they meet certain income guidelines.
Enrollment began across the country on Oct. 1 and ends March 31, 2014. For more information, call 1-855-459-6328.