The topic of health care is not a new subject in the media or at the local level. Local school systems have been dealing with the oncoming Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) and what it means for its employees for several months now. One area of concern that some Putnam County health officials and others are having is what the individual citizen is doing about their health care.
Whether or not people are for or against the new Affordable Health Care Act is a matter of politics. The reality is that the system is here and will be affecting more than the individual's wallet.
The Putnam County Hospital, Putnam County Board of Health, Purdue Extension and the Banner Graphic hosted a public information forum about the health care reform on Thursday. The session gave the public the chance to learn about how the AHCA works, how to find health care and how people might be impacted financially.
The AHCA affects all Americans in different ways, some will be insured through their work, others can receive coverage through Medicaid and Medicare and others will have to go to either a private company or an exchange to purchase insurance.
Dennis Weatherford, CEO of Putnam County Hospital, spoke to those assembled about how important it is for those in Putnam County to sign up for health care now.
"We need to get the word out," Weatherford said, "If people aren't covered it could be trouble. We need to maximize coverage."
Everyone in the United States is to be covered by health insurance by Jan. 1. To facilitate this some government programs have been expanded and health insurance companies are being policed to make coverage equal and affordable to all. But to even out the cost, money has to come from somewhere, Weatherford commented.
To help pay for health care cost, hospitals like PCH receive allocated money to help pay for patients that have no insurance, most of that will be going away. Another way is certain people will be paying more for insurance. Two groups hit will be the young and people in the upper income level.
Susan Rider, a health insurance broker, explained that even with some paying more subsidies might be available to those who qualify. These federal subsidies will lower the cost of insurance, but it is only available to those who under the poverty level and are not covered by qualified insurance from an employer.
Rider also said that employers would have informed employees if the present health insurance is suitable under the AHCA.
She also explained to those assembled that if people are confused trying to navigate the health insurance system, going with a broker might be the way to go. A broker helps people navigate and pick which health insurance is best for the person and/or family.
"This is the time for consumers to get involved in their health insurance," Rider told the assembled crowd.
Even if people do not get health insurance, they will still have to pay a fine when it comes tax time. For an individual it will be $95 or one percent of their income, for a family it would be $258 in 2014. In 2016 an individual would have to pay $695, a family $2,085, or two and a half percent of their income, whichever is greater.
Many people may still be leery of getting health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, Rider informed people that the loophole that was once present will no longer be there as of Jan. 1.
With the penalties in place for those who choose not to get insurance and subsidies in place to help with making the insurance more affordable, the big question is what insurance is in Putnam County.
Two health insurance companies cover the area of Putnam County one is MD Wise.
Marvin Davis, a provider representative for the company based out of Indianapolis, explained that MD Wise was a fairly new company in the game. But that they support three hospital networks: Hoosier Alliance, IU Health and Select Health.
The hospital networks are networks of doctors that are under and take a certain brand of insurance.
The other representative was from Anthem insurance, Shelly Whell. Whell works in Putnam County at HGB. She said that when shopping for insurance a big part is to think of what could happen in the next year.
"Take a look at your health in the last three years," Whell stated. "That will be a good indicator of what you might need to plan for in the next three."
Another big point for all present was that people should choose an insurance that is taken by their primary care physicians. This is a important part because if the doctor is not part of the insurance group, then people will be expected to pay for their visits out of pocket.
The Dec. 23 cutoff to be covered by insurance by Jan. 1 is fast approaching, but there are still many out there that have not signed up. As of early December it is estimated that 365,000 Americans have signed up for insurance, according to health care exchanges. Open enrollment for the 2014 year ends March 31, 2014, after that enrollment will not reopen until November 2014.
For more information on health care and insurance, Putnam County residents can go to www.MDwise.org, www.anthem.com or healthcare.gov. To find a list of agents or brokers that can help navigate the insurance marketplaces go to www.nahu.org.