Affordable Care Act draws crowds to seek information


October 7th, 2013

President Obama's signature on the health care reform bill. (Photo Courtesy Wikipedia)

President Obama’s signature on the health care reform bill.
(Photo Courtesy Wikipedia)

Omaha, NE — Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act began October 1 to the delight of some and the dismay of others.


Numerous informational sessions about the ACA, also known as Obamacare, have been scheduled throughout October in the Omaha-metro to help people like John Proctor and Glenda Sorensen.

“I’m a retired coal miner. I have black lung, and I have a heart problem too so I got conditions,” Proctor said. “I really couldn’t get insurance without Obamacare lifting that pre-existing condition deal. A lot of people wouldn’t. They’d just probably let you die.”

Sorensen, a stay-at-home mom with a ten-year-old autistic daughter, said she and her husband have gone without health insurance for years.

“He is the only individual who helps support our household, which creates a lot of stress on us financially. Therefore, we cannot afford insurance on one income like that,” Sorensen said.

Proctor, 60, and Sorensen, 48, represent the 14 percent of Nebraskans under the age of 65 who are uninsured. This is an increase of 67.4 percent since 2000.

According to the American Public Health Association, without the Affordable Care Act an estimated 60 million Americans would be uninsured by 2022.

‘Call me after you’re dead’

Proctor arrived at a recent healthcare forum at Chef Mike’s in the Lake Point Building in Omaha with one thing on his mind: enrolling for insurance on Nebraska’s marketplace.

He received a letter in the mail September 30 from United Healthcare stating that he would no longer be insured under his current plan at the beginning of the year. He suddenly found himself in the market for coverage.

“I’m poor so I can’t really afford no whole lot, but I’mma have to get something because that’s the law,” Proctor said.

President of Marketplace Nebraska Mark Schlenge said the most challenging aspect of the ACA and its many marketplaces is helping people understand that they can now get health insurance affordably or even free of charge.

“The bill is geared toward helping low to middle income people,” Schlenge said. “Anybody that makes between federal poverty level up to 400 percent of that can qualify for a tax credit and that’s really what this bill is made for.”

There are four companies providing insurance on Nebraska’s marketplace: Coventry Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Health Alliance and CoOpportunity Health, a new insurance carrier that also serves Iowa.

Schlenge said the act is a tremendous change in the delivery of healthcare.

“It’s going to be more uniformity, more consistency, a different delivery system that people can choose different options through the marketplace,”Schlenge said.

Proctor said with a couple of pre-existing conditions he was nearly ineligible for health insurance before the ACA went into effect. Going without insurance was not an option for Proctor, and not just because he would be fined one percent of his income or $95, whichever is higher, in 2014.

“If they go to the hospital with no insurance they might give you two aspirins call me after you’re dead and that’s the truth,” Proctor said.

‘A happy, healthy life’

Glenda Sorensen knows firsthand that life without health insurance can be hard. She watched her father suffer and eventually die of cancer. Her parents were uninsured.

“I don’t want to go through the same things that they went through,” Sorensen said. “Like always we want better for our children, and I know bless my dad he wouldn’t want me to go through that cause it was hard. I want to live longer. I want to live a healthy life. I don’t want to be held back because I can’t get things that I need to make me feel better, do better, live longer, live a better life—more quality. That’s what it’s about. Happy, healthy.”

Sorensen has good reason to want to live a long and healthy life—her daughter is on the autism spectrum. Although her is insured under Medicaid, Sorensen and her husband pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses.

“Every time we go to the doctor we have to fork out quite a bit of money to cover those bills,” Sorensen said. “I have to say no to certain tests because I cannot afford it. There are other things that are going south with me that I need to take care of.”

Sorensen attended the forum sponsored by the Charles Drew Health Center to find out the steps she needs to take in order to get on the road to a healthier life.

Lamar Mcmorris, outreach specialist at the Charles Drew Health Center, said there is a wealth of information that people need to educate themselves on when it comes to the ACA.

“This is something new for everyone and there will be so many questions and so many answers that people may give,” McMorris said. “As we know right now there is a lot going on with our government system. Trying to tie in this new marketplace and look at what’s going on with our government is going to raise questions in itself. We get calls by the hour.”

But Sorensen doesn’t want to question who will care for her daughter should her health fail. She believes the ACA will benefit her family.

“There’s going to be no one else to help care for her so I need to teach her what I can and the best I can while I’m here and I definitely want to see a lot of that. A lot of that,” Sorensen said.        

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medical Services, more than 2.8 million Americans visited opening day.



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