The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 21, 2013

Some in area find ACA better option for insurance

Analysis: States that support Obamacare have more people sign up

JOPLIN, Mo. — Kansans aren’t signing up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, because they don’t like it.

So said Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a surgeon who also is the point man for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his administration on health care issues.

“It doesn’t give them choices. It’s not necessarily more affordable,” Colyer said.

But at least one Kansan disagrees.

Marcia Weeks, 57, of Pittsburg, Kan., said she couldn’t be happier with the health insurance she signed up for last week under the federal program.

She wasn’t blocked because of a pre-existing condition.

It was much less intrusive in terms of the personal information required — just two questions — than the reams of paperwork she was always asked to fill out with a detailed medical history to insurance companies when she previously applied.

She also said she did not have problems signing up last week, either, using the website healthcare.gov.

Bottom line: Weeks said her insurance is less expensive and provides broader coverage than what she had previously.

In fact, she is saving more than $3,000 per year and now has preventive as well as catastrophic care.

Asked if there was any downside to signing up, or anything she didn’t like about Obamacare, Weeks said: “The only downside was having to wait years to get this.”

JOPLIN MAN’S EXPERIENCE

In a nation with no shortage of hot button political issues, none is as red hot right now as Obamacare.

Contentious from conception, it was the target of lawsuits and more than 40 separate attempts by opponents in Congress to defund it after it was created. It stumbled out of the gate, too, because of website problems, and then because it was learned that some people would not be able to keep their previous health coverage, as promised by President Barack Obama.

Joplin resident Ron Yust wasn’t surprised that the website had problems initially.

A software professional, he said he can be both critical and sympathetic. Yust, 57, is in the process of rolling out a small business developing mobile apps for companies, and like a lot of entrepreneurs, he wrestles over the choices for health insurance.

Right now, he’s buying insurance through his previous insurer, courtesy of COBRA, which allows him the right to temporary continuation of health insurance at group rates. It’s good for 18 months, and he has about a year to go.

“For me it is a little over $1,000 per month,” Yust said. “The employer is no longer paying his share of the premium. It gets expensive.”

He also has shopped around with insurance companies, but didn’t like what he found. The rates were comparable to what he is paying now.

“I don’t feel the private insurance is ever going to be good. ... When you are an individual or a small business you don’t have the power of numbers.”

His wife and one child are also going to be on the policy, but some members of the family have pre-existing conditions, and, at the very least, those push up rates; at worst, they preclude the family from coverage.

“It is kind of frustrating that for 20 or 30 years I paid out premiums and I never took advantage of the medical system. Now that I am older and I need it, I’m unemployed and have pre-existing conditions, and I can’t easily get affordable health coverage.

“Regardless of your views, there is an issue with health care coverage in the United States and the cost and the accessibility of it. It’s not going away. There is a problem somewhere. I don’t know if this (Obamacare) is the solution, but at least someone is trying to remedy this.”

Because he anticipated problems with the website initially, he waited until it “settled down” before he got on it.

“It is not a reflection of the program or the good of the program,” he said of the website’s earlier problems.

“My view of the website is that it is an extreme hand-holding approach. It is easy to navigate ... unless you need to make a change.”

Then, he said, it’s back to square one.

He’s shopping around, comparing rates. He has until Monday to sign up if the coverage is going to kick in on Jan. 1. He isn’t sure what his final costs will be, but after reviewing plan costs and factoring in subsidies — a little more than a third of those who have signed up so far have been eligible for them — he said the plans are “slightly higher than what I used to pay as an employee.”

He thinks his final costs will be in the range of $400 to $500 per month, covering himself and two family members, compared with the $300 to $400 he paid previously for family coverage.

While the federal health care system isn’t perfect, he is confident that not only will he find something cheaper, but it might be a better fit for his family than an employer-chosen plan.

“I am very optimistic. To me, this is the way it should be. I like the idea of having some control over your coverage.

“ACA (Affordable Care Act) was designed for us in our situation currently,” he added.

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