Health & Medicine

Insurance exchange official answers questions about health care law

After years of debate and months of preparation and educational outreach by the state, there are still plenty of questions about the Affordable Care Act.

There were nearly as many questions as there were people attending a meeting at AIDS Volunteers Inc. in Lexington on Tuesday.

Miriam A. Fordham, division director of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, asked who in the audience knew what will happen Oct. 1. There were a few rumblings until someone in the audience said it's the day Kentuckians can begin to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

Starting that day, people can go online to KyNect.Ky.Gov, examine the health-insurance options, pick a plan and enroll. The website also will let people know whether they qualify for Medicaid, a tax credit or assistance in lowering out-of-pocket expenses.

Fordham said people earning as much as 133 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, or $15,541, will be eligible for Medicaid.

Fordham reiterated to the group that under the Affordable Care Act no one can be denied because of a pre-existing condition.

"Insurance companies can no longer say to you, 'We don't want you,'" said Mary Volkerding, a community relations representative for Kentucky Health Cooperative who also addressed the group. The cooperative is a new, nonprofit health-insurance provider formed as a part of the Affordable Care Act.

AVOL executive director Mark Royse said his group tried to get word of the meeting out to the community at large, but that the new availability of health insurance is important to AVOL clients. Some of AVOL's clients already receive health insurance through Medicaid, but others are in need, Royse said.

"We felt like it was an important opportunity to learn more about it. There is not a lot of information out there. We are learning along with everybody else," he said.

Volkerding said that when she first started giving presentations in the spring, many people didn't know the Affordable Care Act was going to go into effect.

One common question was how much rates will be. "I have no idea. I will be waiting up until 12:01 to learn on Tuesday," Volkerding said. "Starting next Tuesday, we will see what things really are."

It's important when dealing with complicated issues such as HIV and AIDS that everybody be on the same page, said John Moses, who will work with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department to help people learn about the state program.

"It's going to be very important that all of us have he same information to share with the clients," he said.

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