TERRE HAUTE —
The first day for Obamacare health insurance exchanges was marked in Terre Haute with a two-hour forum to educate the public about the new law.
State Representative Ed Clere, R-New Albany, and Paul Chase, an attorney with extensive experience in health care coverage, spoke to a gathering of about 50 people in the Booker T. Washington Community Center about the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
They shared practical information to help people better understand the law. They also took questions from the audience concerning all aspects of Obamacare, including costs, requirements and benefits.
Clere, who is chairman of the Indiana House committee on public health, kept partisan politics mostly out of the forum, instead focusing on the nuts and bolts of Obamacare, especially for Hoosiers.
“It’s interesting how specific and practical the questions have been,” Clere said after the forum. “Some folks who have shown up at these meets are expecting a political rally. That’s not what we’ve been doing.”
Politics is part of the discussion, but it’s not the focus, he said.
Clere has been traveling around the state hosting similar meetings, all hosted by branches of the Indiana Minority Health Coalition.
In addition to the general public, a handful of insurance professionals also attended the forum, including certified “assistors,” people hired to help consumers comply with Obamacare.
Some states, such as Indiana, have chosen not to expand their Medicaid programs as envisioned under the ACA, Clere said. As a result, Indiana hospitals that were expecting to see more paying customers and fewer individuals with no ability to pay, are feeling a financial pinch as payments to hospitals have been cut, he said.
Several hospitals around Indiana have started laying off workers, Chase said. “That’s a stress on the system that’s going to get worse” before it improves, he said.
Indiana is missing the boat not expanding its Medicaid program, Clere said, adding he believes there is a middle ground somewhere between Indiana’s position and the federal government’s.
At the end of the two-hour forum, many people said they learned a lot from the session.
“It was helpful,” said Mary Ann Lister of Terre Haute. She, Darlene Cooper and Deborah Vaughn all had concerns about the future of Medicare, however, and worried about a potential shortage of doctors and qualified health care providers.
“I was very impressed,” said Dinah Farrington, executive director/program coordinators for the Minority Health Coalition of Vigo County, which hosted the event. The audience “voiced all of the concerns that I’ve been hearing from people.”
The meeting took place on a watershed day for Obamacare, Clere said at the start of the meeting, which lasted from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday was the first day states began offering health insurance through insurance “market places,” formerly called “exchanges.”
To access the Indiana market place, visit www.healthcare.gov.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org