Panel fields questions on Obamacare
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org October 2, 2013 10:14PM
A man signs in at Wednesday's town hall meeting on the Affordable Care Act at Ivy Tech. | Matt Mikus/Post-Tribune
Updated: November 4, 2013 12:23PM
GARY — People with questions about the new health care law may have gotten some of the answers they needed Wednesday night.
Medical professionals and state politicians came together for a panel discussion on Obamacare and fielded questions from the audience — questions ranging from where to find information to how much would insurance cost.
The Lake County Minority Health Coalition hosted the panel at Ivy Tech in Gary, featuring:
— State Reps. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and Ed Clere, R-New Albany, both of the Public Health Committee in the Indiana House of Representatives. Both had pushed for expanding Medicaid during the last session.
— Denise Dillard, a consultant for Methodist Hospitals.
— Janet Seabrook, executive director of Community HealthNet.
— Paul Chase, deputy director of Covering Kids and Families.
Audience members were allowed to write down questions anonymously.
One asked if increases in costs could be expected, since they recently saw a 30 percent increase in prescriptions as well as a $3 copay increase.
Dillard explained there would be increases, but insurance companies would be required to prove such increases were necessary. Increases also would depend on a person’s income level, requiring those who can afford it to chip in more.
In response to a question about someone being HIV-positive, Chase explained the new law provides that no one can be turned down for coverage if they have a pre-existing condition.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s HIV, diabetes or heat disease,” he said. “You can’t be turned down.”
Seabrook added that the new law also reclassified HIV as a chronic illness, since those with the disease have to monitor it continuously.
Chase went on to explain that those who can receive coverage from their employers will receive coverage. Those without employee health insurance would go to the marketplace and can qualify for subsidies to help lower the cost.
While someone could go to the marketplace website to purchase even if their employer offers coverage, they wouldn’t qualify for the subsidies.
An audience member posed the question of organizations who have changed their mind about supporting Obamacare.
Dillard responded that hospitals are worried, especially safety net hospitals that provide coverage to those who can’t afford it. To help cover the costs of the new law, reimbursements for Medicare were cut back to cover the expansion of Medicaid.
But when the Supreme Court ruled that states could choose to participate, that left hospitals in states that haven’t expanded with a lack of funding coming back.
“Without that expansion, the hospitals aren’t covered,” Dillard said.
Rep. Clere fielded a question about why Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in favor of the Massachusetts plan, often referred to as Romneycare, but opposed to Obamacare.
“We’re too bogged down in whose idea it was. It doesn’t make it a good idea or a bad idea depending on where it came from,” Clere said, “Doesn’t matter if it has Romney’s name or Obama’s name, we need to look at its merits and find a way to make it work.”
He adds that he still has concerns on how to pay for the Affordable Care Act, but in the short term it provides health care coverage to millions who couldn’t have it before.
Clere and Brown both said they’ll try to look at the Medicaid expansion again in the next legislative session.
“My hope is that we’ll continue the discussion and have the conversation in the legislature with the governor,” Clere said, “and find some common ground.”
Rep. Brown said a lot of questions could be answered through the Kaiser Family Foundation website, kff.org, and at the marketplace home page, Healthcare.gov.
“If you take anything away with you tonight,” Brown said at the end of the night, “please keep these sites in mind.”
The panel discussion also is to be rebroadcast on Gary’s Public Access television station.