Decoding the ACA

Spreading the word on Obamacare

2013-08-10T12:00:00Z Spreading the word on ObamacareVanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

In a commercial marketed toward Oregonians, a woman in a red dress strums a guitar and sings a folksy song about state pride.

"To care for each one/every daughter and son/live long in Oregon," she sings. At the end, a sign is lowered into the frame. It reads, "Cover Oregon, Our Healthcare Marketplace," with a website for more information.

A Colorado television spot shows a woman shopping online for health care and celebrating with a winning baseball team as a voice explains, "When health insurance companies compete, there's only one winner: You."

Commercials promoting health care sign-ups are absent from local airwaves for now, but community groups are prepping for the Oct. 1 open enrollment date, set through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Dr. Janet Seabrook, executive director of Community HealthNet in Gary, described the outreach effort as "throw back" style, the way social workers and case workers visit clients in their homes.

"We're going to outreach in housing projects, in community centers, laundromats, churches, wherever events are going on," she said.

Community HealthNet was among the federally qualified health centers that received supplemental funding to hire people to help spread the word, Seabrook said.

"We will be able to bring on staff to help navigate patients through the enrollment process for the Affordable Care Act," she said. "They're going to have to feel comfortable being out in the community and outreach events, and have the personality and ability to be able to understand complicated insurance plans."

One of the challenges is educating people to select the best plan, often when those people have never been insured or have been on a plan with no options.

The center will hire up to four workers with the supplemental funding. Some of the funding will pay for current employees to be trained, so all staff can serve as resources.

"With so many people being uninsured, it's going to take a lot of people to be knowledgeable about the process," Seabrook said.

Enroll America, a national nonpartisan group working to educate and enroll people in health plans through the ACA, counts dozens of organizations on its advisory council, including AARP, Catholic Charities USA, NAACP and Planned Parenthood.

Among its outreach partners is Covering Kids & Families of Indiana.

"We found out about their organization and became actively involved," said David Roos, executive director of Covering Kids & Families of Indiana.

Members of Enroll America have made three trips to Indiana to participate in public meetings and help educate communities and stakeholders, Roos said.

Covering Kids & Families of Indiana ensures eligible children and families are enrolled in Medicaid and the State's Children's Health Insurance Program. Its website offers information about the ACA.

"We basically try to gather the best information from government, state and other not-for-profits and make it available through the site," Roos said. "There's a lot of misleading information that's floating around, including coming from state agencies. To be honest, that muddies the water and confuses the general public. We try to provide objective information to the public." 

Technology a hurdle

"Many of the low-income families, in particular, aren't as familiar with online applications," Roos said. "We're going to try to do everything in our power to get people into the new products and services offered through the Indiana marketplace."

People are still confused and scared, said Katie Moreau, communications director for AARP Indiana.

"The main concern is that folks (think they) are going to lose their Medicare or it's going to be altered," she said. "I think it started with confusion from the onset. These past couple years, it's just built up and there's been a lot of efforts on our part to dispel the rumors and myths."

The AARP recently unveiled two websites designed to inform people, healthlawanswers.org and healthlawfacts.org.  

Not everyone is receptive to technology.

"The most effective ways we've been able to do outreach is by the in-person events," Moreau said. 

The state chapter has a half dozen volunteers trained to give presentations about the ACA.

An event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at Woodland Park Social Center, 2100 Willowcreek Road in Portage. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (877) 926-8300.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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