Merlene Davis: Questions about new health-care law answered this weekend

Nationally, the Affordable Care Act is getting slammed because of the numerous problems occurring on the federal government's enrollment website.

However, in Kentucky and several other states which chose to launch separate online enrollment programs, the new health care law is a slam dunk.

Gov. Steve Beshear said Kentuckians are signing up at the rate of about 1,000 people a day, with more than 15,000 enrolled. In Washington state, reports say 35,000 signed up during the program's first three weeks, and Oregon reduced the number of uninsured residents by 10 percent in only two weeks.

It is so wonderful to see this state among the leaders in something positive for a change.

Under the law, all of us need to be enrolled in a health care insurance program by March 31, 2014, or pay a penalty. If you want insurance coverage by Jan. 1, you have to sign up by Dec. 15.

We have a very long way to go. By most estimates, Kentucky has 640,000 uninsured residents, many of whom would be eligible for health care under the new expanded Medicaid rules. People earning as much as $15,541, or 133 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, will be eligible for Medicaid.

Kentucky's insurance marketplace, Kynect, was set up by executive order in July 2012 and is overseen by a board appointed by Beshear.

It allows people to check their eligibility before signing up for a policy, which is a plus that the federal program doesn't have.

So, why aren't more Kentuckians signing on?

Obviously a lot of people like to wait until the last minute to comply. Others are waiting to hear how family and friends have fared before enrolling. And still many others simply don't understand what all the fuss is about.

The folks in that last group are the focus of the Lexington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority's Social Action Committee.

They are hosting a free "Affordable Care Act Roundtable Discussion" Saturday at the Charles Young Community Center. Everyone is welcome.

"We want people to be able to come to a comfortable place, ask questions, hear about issues concerning the Affordable Care Act and get responses to their questions," said Chrysanthia Carr-Seals, co-chairwoman of the event and the social action committee.

She said two health officials — Miriam Fordham, division director of Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange, and Vivian Lasley-Bibbs, acting manager of the Office of Health Equity at the Kentucky Department of Public Health — will be on the panel to explain the new law. Other panelists include elected officials and community leaders who can answer questions if necessary.

Lasley-Bibbs said the Deltas have long been proponents of health screenings and now the ACA can make those screenings more accessible for everyone. "Our sorority has been talking about this for about a year," she said.

She said Kentucky has certified people available to help residents unfamiliar with computers walk through the process online.

Blacks make up 8 percent of Kentucky's population, but their incidents of certain chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure are double and triple that percentage in the state.

Carr-Seals said she has been approached by fellow church members and others in her community who are still asking what it all means. "Even though our governor and our state are supportive, there are people who have not attended workshops and just don't know how to enroll," she said.

Other panelists who have agreed to attend include State Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-77th District; Linda Godfrey, a registered nurse and professor at Kentucky State University, and other community leaders.

Carr-Seals said the discussion will take only two hours and light refreshments will be served.

So bring all your questions and leave with answers.

"We are hoping to see as many people as possible," she said. "We are hoping with this being such a hot issue, people will come out."


What: The Lexington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is hosting a round-table discussion to help answer questions about Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange ( and the Affordable Care Act.

When: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday.

Where: Charles Young Community Center, 540 East Third Street.

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Information: Call (859) 271-0698, or email