By: Leah Uko
OMAHA (KPTM) – For six years Bret Chudacoff couldn't afford health care because of his pre-existing conditions.
"It's not just that I'm insurable now. Everybody's insurable now," he said.
The 54-year-old, small-business owner wasted no time starting the process of registering for the Affordable Care Act over the phone. He tried doing it online, but was redirected to the phone line.
"I was talking to a real person in under two minutes."
He still wanted to learn more about ACA, the law also known as ‘Obamacare' that was passed in 2010 to cover millions of uninsured Americans by 2014.
"A lot of the bad stuff that I'm hearing just doesn't ring true or is outright lies."
He and a room half full of others learned more about ACA from the Nebraska Department of Insurance. The agency held an educational session on Thursday at the Durham Research Center at University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Representatives with the agency covered what ACA means to businesses and people, what the Health Insurance Marketplace is and held discussions on open enrollment and rates. They also explained what the roles of insurance agents, navigators and certified application counselors are.
The Health Insurance Marketplace is an online system that people can calculate their eligibility for federal tax credits to subsidize premiums, compare insurance policies and enroll. It is not intended for people who have Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare.
Under ACA, navigators are intended to work with people one-on-one or in groups to educate them about the new law. The people – who spend about 20 hours in training—are provided at Community Action of Nebraska and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. Both are networks of community action programs covering the 93 counties in Nebraska.
Application counselors focus on helping uninsured health care patients get enrolled in ACA options.
Insurance agents and brokers offer advice to clients.
Despite the many Americans trying to reject the law, many have taken initiative to learn about it and try to enroll.
The Nebraska Department of Insurance Executive Director Roger Furrer said the agency has gotten 770 calls from people who wanted coverage or had basic questions. He said, so far, counselors have served 106 people.
He recommended people try to set up appointments for assistance during the evenings and weekends—times that are less full and more flexible.
But the glitches www.healthcare.gov have gotten in the way of progress.
Jan Henderson with the Fred LeRoy Health and Wellness Clinic said it hasn't been able to sign anyone up since the site launched two weeks ago.
She added that it has made appointments with 15 people.
"I'm sure there's going to be frustration, but hopefully they'll be patient," said Swanson. "We know the good Nebraskans are patient. They'll come back and try it again soon."
Despite the hiccups and criticism, Chudacoff reminded himself of what he called the big picture—under the new law; everyone will soon be responsible for paying their own medical costs.
"I don't want to be paying through higher premiums for the 25-year-old who isn't covered and something catastrophic happens."
Open enrollment for the new Health Insurance Marketplace began on October 1 with coverage to start on January 1. The open enrollment period lasts through March 31.
To contact a Community Action of Nebraska navigator, call (402) 471-3714. You can reach Ponca Tribe at (402) 738-3158. To find your local office visit www.canhelp.org/map.
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