Decoding the ACA

In the dark: Unknowns hinder full comprehension of Obamacare

2013-07-27T20:00:00Z 2013-08-22T21:44:26Z In the dark: Unknowns hinder full comprehension of ObamacareVanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

Editor's note: This story is the first in an occasional series that looks at how the Affordable Care Act affects the region.

Americans are in store for significant health care changes in the coming months, as major components of the Affordable Care Act are unrolled.

The law will affect everyone, but average people and those in the know can only speculate the impact.

A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released in April showed 42 percent of Americans were unaware the Affordable Care Act was still in place.

Of those, 12 percent thought Congress repealed it, 7 percent thought the Supreme Court overturned it and the other 23 percent simply did not know one way or the other, according to the poll.

"It's so massive and so confusing," said Will Glaros, president and CEO of Employer Benefit Systems in Dyer.

Glaros, whose clients are employers who want to comply with the law, said past legislative changes are nothing compared to the sweeping transformation the ACA brings.

"In my 35 years in this end of the business, this is what I would call a life event," he said.

He was surprised but not utterly floored by the Kaiser poll findings in April. People do not understand the implications, often thinking the ACA only will affect uninsured people, he said.

"Most people viewed it as, 'I'm insured, so it's OK,'" he said.

Glaros and others in the insurance industry are trying to comprehend the law and translate its impact for their clients.

Being in the thick of it means Glaros has sacrificed family time and logged Sunday and early morning work hours, sometimes showing up at the office at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday to prepare clients for the ACA rollout.

His company subscribes to a benefit platform support group, which produces regular — sometimes daily — summaries of ACA updates, explanations and approaching deadlines. Without those briefs, it would be tough to stay on top of the law, Glaros said.

Open enrollment for the health insurance exchanges created in the ACA starts Oct. 1, a little more than two months from now.

The Kaiser poll also showed about half the respondents said they did not have enough information about the law to understand how it will impact their family, a percentage that is higher among uninsured and low-income households, according to Kaiser.

A recent informal poll at Wicker Memorial Park in Highland shows questions linger among region residents.

"Just like most people, I don't understand how this is going to affect me," Hammond resident David Salazar said. "I understand the rules and regulations are thousands of pages long. Who's going to read that?"

Human resources workers who need to understand the law may dig into the details, but an everyday person is not likely to pore over the pages, he said.

Griffith resident Diana Sanchez said there's a lot she doesn't understand about the legislation, namely the cost and coverage associated with the plans.

"I don't really understand it," she said. "We shouldn't have to be going on a guessing game."

The Griffith resident has witnessed the impact of being uninsured. An uninsured diabetic family member sometimes cannot afford food, she said.

Morgan Township resident Amanda Putz has questions about the law's details.

"How are they going to decipher which candidates are optimal for certain medical procedures?" she asked. "How many employees would justify having an employer have to provide insurance?"

But insurance is on the back burner for other people, such as Calumet City resident Holly White.

"I haven't been paying attention to it, because I have health care," she said. "I'm not worried."

White, who works at UPS, said there is talk about her union taking over her health insurance plan in the future.

Pan Gadson, a Jacksonville, Fla., man who is in the region for a work assignment, said he has health coverage through his employer and doesn't have a strong opinion about the ACA.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I haven't followed it too much. I think we need something."

Janis Thompson, of East Chicago, is unemployed and unsure what the law means for her.

"I still have questions," she said. "I need to do more research on my own."

She tries to stay healthy by walking and keeping active. Preventive checkups are essential, but, without insurance, she doesn't think people can get them.

"I thank God I'm not a sickly person," Thompson said.

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