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The Scarlet & Black

Health Insurance the Talk of the Town Hall

 

With the upcoming deadlines to meet requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act looming, the Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC), in cooperation with Iowa Insurance Division, held community meetings about the implications of the federal statute.

 

As many Grinnell residents will be among the millions affected by the approaching legislature deadlines, these events were compiled as an opportunity for them to learn more about the immediate impact the changes might have on them. Two different sessions were arranged for this Thursday, one focusing on the policy changes impacting local businesses and another session concentrating more on individuals in the community.

 

Nathan Kapke from the Iowa Insurance Division was the keynote speaker at both of the community sessions. He felt that his presentations here in Grinnell have been “more unique, in that, we had a request to cover both the individual portions of it—so we talked about tax credits for individuals, what the individual mandate is—but we also had a request to cover employer provisions of the Affordable Care Act.”

 

The first of two sessions, “Affordable Care Act: What does it mean for your company?” was held on Thursday, Dec. 12 at the Grinnell Steakhouse. During the lunchtime meeting, Kapke and Lynn Schreder with KHI Financial Solutions presented what businesses need to do to be compliant under the Affordable Care Act.

 

“We talked about different tax credits that small businesses might be eligible for to help cover the costs of health insurance for their employees, and also the employer mandate that would require large employers … to offer health insurance to [their] full-time employees,” Kapke said.

 

Helping explain and lessen the local impacts of the transition are people like Tasos Papachristoudis ’13, GRMC Certified Application Counselor (CAC). He discussed his role in helping individuals enroll in health insurance through HealthCare.gov and other programs such as Medicaid.

 

“[The] first deadline that is approaching is on December 23 and that’s the final time you can sign up before the coverage starts on January 1, but you can sign up for insurance for free until March 31. After that you’ll have to pay a fine if you don’t have health insurance,” he explained.

 

His job consists of helping people enroll in health insurance and also letting them know about their options, since many people are unaware of them.

 

“We are doing the town hall meeting, so [the insurance program] can be promoted,” he said.

 

The second session, “Town Hall Meeting on Health Insurance,” was held Thursday evening at the Drake Community Library. Kapke, who was the sole presenter to an audience of 10 community members, discussed the Iowa Health Insurance Marketplace. This session was geared more towards navigating the health care market, including the government marketplace website.

 

The focus of the community session catered to the concerns of the audience and specific questions tied to the portions of the Affordable Care Act that most effect individuals, particularly the individual mandate. The primary choice confronting most individuals is whether they choose to enroll in a minimum essential coverage plan or be taxed for lacking one.

 

In order to avoid an escalating tax which will be levied on the uninsured and incrementally rise each year, starting in 2014, Kapke outlined some of the important required features to look for in a policy. Kapke mentioned a list of 10 essential health services, such as laboratory services and prescription drugs, which all plans must cover. All plans can be made affordable for individuals through financial mechanisms such as tax credits, public insurance and cost-sharing subsidies.

 

Part of the insurance impacts include those on individuals’ businesses, which were the next area of interest requested by those present at the Town Hall. Kapke switched gears to explaining how small businesses could address their obligation to provide insurance to their employees. He also addressed how insuring special cases of employees, such as seasonal employees or those who are a part of the business owner’s family, need to be addressed.

 

A question-answer session at the end of the information presentation answered remaining concerns. An audience member voiced her concerns about the limited insurance offerings in the Iowa Marketplace for residents of Grinnell, specifically her hesitation in using CoOportunity Health, a new company which she did not have confidence in. Kapke explained the role the government plays in supporting this and other companies related to the health care legislation and answered related questions from the crowd.

Town Hall - Aaron Juarez

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