Archive for Friday, January 10, 2014

Obamacare enrollment picks up in Lawrence

January 10, 2014


Melinda Henderson thought she was going to continue to be uninsured even after the Affordable Care Act went into effect Jan. 1.

The Lawrence bookkeeper didn't expect to earn more than the federal poverty level, or $11,490, so she wouldn't have qualified for Medicaid, since Kansas has elected not to expand the program to childless adults. Nor did she think she could get subsidies on the health insurance marketplace, which are for people who make between one and four times federal poverty.

But after a Christmas bonus put the 60-year-old above the poverty level, she made enough — yes, enough — to qualify for government aid at She qualified for a silver plan, which covers 70 percent of expenses, for about $60 a month and a $250 annual deductible.

"This may not be the best process around. I think it definitely could use improvement," said Henderson, referring to the health care system. "Nothing's really changed except tax credits for poor people like me."

Still, Henderson, who has worked in the medical records, is a savvier customer than most. Even so, local health care officials say enrollment in the insurance marketplace has been increasing in recent weeks, particularly in the days leading up to the Christmas Eve deadline to buy insurance that would start Jan. 1. The next big deadline is March 31, when most Americans are required to have insurance or they will face a fine ($95 or 1 percent of your income in the first year).

Kansas doesn't track data on how many people have enrolled in the health insurance marketplace because the state elected not to set up its own insurance exchange. The federal government doesn't release city- or county-specific numbers and hasn't released data on the state since Dec. 11, when it was revealed that 1,855 Kansans had enrolled through Nov. 30.

Heartland Community Health Center has been able to sign up more than 50 people for insurance since Oct. 1, with much of that activity happening in the days leading up to that late December deadline. "The more people we see with insurance, the more people without insurance we can see," said Ali Edwards, development director for Heartland Community Health Center, which provides care to anyone in the community on a sliding scale, from the uninsured to those with either public or private insurance.

The majority of the clinic's patients, however, will continue to go uninsured. That's because Kansas has thus far elected not to expand Medicaid to childless adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Health Care Access, a Lawrence clinic for the uninsured, also has a certified navigator on staff but has not enrolled any patients as many of the clients there don't make enough money to qualify for subsidies on the exchange. "I’ve had to have the 'you are too poor for help' talk more times that I’d like to," said navigator Jill Flessing.

Brian Edie, an independence Lawrence insurance agent certified to sign people up for insurance through the marketplace, said he has enrolled 15 to 20 people in the new plans since Oct. 1. "I did see a pretty big increase in interest in that last quarter, especially in December," he said.

Navigators at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department have helped a dozen people purchase insurance through the marketplace, and have provided guidance and assistance to about another 150. Navigator Amanda Kong said most the people she has helped get insurance have been pleasantly surprised with their rates after subsidies and cost sharing, with plans as low as $5 a month with no deductible.

Gene Meyer, CEO of Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said one of the practices the hospital oversees has already started seeing 26 new patients who bought insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Still, hospital officials don't expect to see a big influx of patients unless the state of Kansas elects to expand Medicaid, which would provide insurance to several thousand low-income Douglas County residents. LMH, like other hospitals across the country had its Medicare reimbursement lowered to pay for the law — about $2.5 million a year — in the thought that the extra Medicaid patients would make up the difference.


Joshua Montgomery 4 years ago

The failure of our state government to take advantage of federal Medicaid dollars is a travesty and the single most important reason to vote against Mr. Brownback next November.

Kansans are paying federal taxes which are then being spent providing healthcare to residents of New York, California and even backwards states like Arkansas.

We then have to pay for uninsured Kansans to use our hospitals and, in the case of many of our mentally ill citizens, live in our homeless shelters.

His statement that the program might eventually cost more than it does now is simply hogwash. If it costs more in future years the state legislature is welcome to shut the program down.

The dirty little secret that FOX NEWS isn't telling folks about the Affordable Care Act is that it is already making a huge difference for poor and low income Americans who were without insurance.

Lawrence Morgan 4 years ago

I completely agree with Joshua.

Many of my finest friends in Lawrence over the past years have been artists, writers and musicians - even small businessmen - and they haven't made much money over the years, but their work has greatly enriched what Lawrence has to offer. They deserve health care, but they don't have it because of the Governor and his friends in the legislature.

I wonder how many other towns have similar situations. There's much more to life than business and salaries. Many of the artists and writers I have known have lost their work forever, because they couldn't find a place to keep it. Now, they have lost health care too, at a most critical point in many of their lives!

Scott Kaiser 4 years ago

The only thing I fear about dying is that I'll then become a voting democrat and approve crap like Obamacare....

Joshua Montgomery 4 years ago

Keith, first off, I loved your in performance in "Start me up". The syncopated and ringing I-IV cords just bring that track home for me. It isn't that often that I get the chance to talk to such a storied and famous rock star.

In regards to the ACA, considering the amount of heroin and coke you pumped up your arms in the 1970's I am surprised you are not fully in support of the legislation.

They can no longer deny insurance just because you tried to use all of the heavy drugs shipped to Great Britain between 1973 and 1979.

As a citizen of Great Britain, you are eligible for the national health. That, plus your residuals from "Now!" should be more than enough to get the health care you need.

RJ Johnson 4 years ago

You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government can’t give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody. And when half of the people get the idea they don’t have to work because the other half’s going to take care of them, and when the other half get the idea it does no good to work because somebody’s going to get what I work for. That, dear friend, is about the end of any nation.

Steve King 4 years ago

I am enrolled! And I have already received my policy cards. It's that old saw "inspect what you expect". A simple phone call the next day to my carrier was all it took. I received no subsidy but my coverage costs went down from $3,200 to $1,300 a month with a lower deductible and the same coverage.

It's so simple it's stupid. A bigger pool spreads out the costs. I'm glad we can afford to help the less fortunate. It's really a small amount when compared to the costs incurred to us when they go to the emergency room for a chest cold. If we can spend a billion a month in the middle east we can afford some charity and equality at home.

Insurance companies profits rose from 2.5 billion to 12.5 billion from 2001-2008. Premiums rose 150% in the same time period.

If you are paying more now I suspect you really didn't have the quality coverage as you might have assumed you did. You really think the weasels above were working in your best interest?

Beator 4 years ago

(Reuters) - Most uninsured adult Americans lack basic knowledge about President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law and haven't visited their online insurance marketplace because they think health insurance is unaffordable, according to a survey released on Thursday.

This looks like a job for Pajama Boy.

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