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Health care officials discuss reform law

State Rep. Charlie Brown D-Gary Methodist Hospitals Vice President external government affairs Denise Dillard Community HealthNet Executive Director Dr. Janet

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, Methodist Hospitals Vice President of external and government affairs Denise Dillard, Community HealthNet Executive Director Dr. Janet Seabrook, Covering Kids & Families Executive Director David Roos, and Lake County Minority Health Coalition Executive Director Tracy Robinson discussed Medicaid issues, the insurance exchanges, safety-net hospitals, deductibles and other topics at a Monday night Obamacare forum at the Genesis Convention Center. | CHRISTIN NANCE LAZERUS/POST-TRIBUNE

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Updated: November 5, 2013 11:41AM



GARY — Eight years ago, East Chicago resident Marianne Pivovarnik left her job in Illinois, which provided her with health insurance.

Once she exhausted her COBRA policy, she looked for insurance in Indiana, but she was rejected for having diabetes.

“I looked into Medicaid and the Healthy Indiana Plan, but I made too much,” she said.

So she’s had to navigate the healthcare system by paying for doctor’s visits on an installment plan, receiving free medication samples from doctors and getting the generic medications at WalMart.

“It’s always children and seniors who definitely need it, but there’s a whole big group of us in the middle,” she said.

Ninkovich and about two dozen others described their challenges and queried officials at a Monday night forum on the Affordable Care Act at the Genesis Convention Center. State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, Methodist Hospitals Vice President of external and government affairs Denise Dillard, Community HealthNet Executive Director Dr. Janet Seabrook, Covering Kids & Families Executive Director David Roos, and Lake County Minority Health Coalition Executive Director Tracy Robinson discussed Medicaid issues, the insurance exchanges, safety-net hospitals, deductibles and other topics.

Much of the discussion centered around the thousands of people who would benefit under a proposed expansion of Medicaid — from incomes at 100 percent of the poverty level to 138 percent — but Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has refused to expand the program under its current parameters in 2014.

Pence has requested a federal waiver to expand it via HIP, which requires enrollees to contribute 2 percent of their income into a Health Savings Account. The state is still in discussions with the federal government about how to expand it.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who opened the forum, said the city is trying multiple avenues to get its residents coverage.

“We’re going to be signing up people at City Hall because we believe so strongly in it,” Freeman-Wilson

Brown urged those in attendance to call their legislators and the governor on Nov. 19 — Organization Day — to try and push the state toward expanding traditional Medicaid.

“Those eligible have a difficult time finding coverage in Indiana as it is,” Brown said. “The governor’s initial reaction was that emergency rooms or charity care would help. That is not a wise or efficient use of resources. I feel it’s a human right.”

Brown also warned about scam artists that may offer help with an application in return for payment.

“You do not have to spend any money to complete an application,” he said.

Dillard said the plan offers some of the lesser known aspects of the ACA are big improvements.

“Allowing young people to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26 is huge; Typically young people don’t go to the doctor and if something goes wrong they go to the ER, which is costly,” Dillard said. “Medical costs can impede your credit, savings, your ability to buy a house.

“The elimination of pre-existing conditions is big because currently insurance companies can discriminate against you if you’ve been sick.”

Seabrook urged those seeking coverage to seek out navigators at community health centers or hospitals who can walk them through the enrollment process.

“Even if you have problems with healthcare.gov, we have paper applications or we can connect you with an operator, who can complete your application with you,” Seabrook said.



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