By TRAVIS MORSE email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — To local insurance agent Bill Kelton, keeping yourself informed is the best way to navigate the complexities of the new health care law.
Kelton was one of 10 area residents to attend a special workshop Thursday night on the Affordable Care Act, which was offered at Crossroads Community Hospital.
He said informational meetings like that one are a key part of educating the public on the ACA.
“It's confusing. I think everybody needs to come to one of these and learn about this,” Kelton said. “I got a look at the (insurance) plans today, but still there's a lot of information that I need to pick up. I'm more interested for myself, but then I can also pass it on to other people because I know everybody has questions.”
The workshop, which lasted roughly an hour, presented a broad overview of the new law and its many provisions.
The instructors were Lisa Fager, director of business office services for Crossroads, and Debi Richardson, director of marketing and public relations for the hospital. Questions were also taken from the audience.
Richardson said it would be impossible to tell each person in attendance what their benefits will be under the new law and what they will pay, since there are many determining factors.
The cost of insurance in the new Health Insurance Marketplace can depend on where you live, your age, your family size, whether you use tobacco, what level of coverage you purchase, and how large a subsidy you qualify for, Richardson said.
“It is totally individualized and there's no way (of knowing) without going through the actual application process,” Richardson said.
Still, Richardson hoped the meeting would add to the public's knowledge on this often confusing issue.
“We are trying to explain it at a level that people can either understand or ask intelligent questions,” Richardson said.
One of the key topics at Thursday's meeting was the penalty for those who do not acquire health insurance coverage by Jan. 1, 2014.
If you remain uninsured as an adult in 2014, you may have to pay a $95 fee when filing your income taxes. That fee increases to $695 per uninsured adult in 2016.
Certain individuals, however, are exempt from the penalty, including those uninsured for less than three months of the year, uninsured people with very low incomes, and those who are members of a recognized sect that has religious objections to health insurance.
Several people in the audience Thursday had concerns about the new law.
Larry Braddy of rural Dix said he currently has Medicare Part A and B and is concerned about paying more for health insurance under the ACA provisions.
“I don't really understand it yet,” Braddy said. “I don't think anybody understands it fully.”
Truda White of Mt. Vernon is a self-employed contractor who does not currently have insurance. She said she's worried about how the new law will impact her life.
“I have no idea how that works,” White said. “I mean, right now, I'm doing everything self-pay so it's going to be a change to have to have insurance.”
At the end of Thursday's meeting, those in attendance were given the chance to sign up for an appointment with a Crossroads Eligibility Screening Services representative, who will advise them on complying with the new law.
For more information, visit www.healthcare.gov. You can also get assistance by calling Crossroads at 241-8584, or the Jefferson County Health Department at 244-7134.