Free Health Care Event May Not Decrease Number of Uninsured Missourians

5 years 9 months 2 weeks ago Friday, January 24 2014 Jan 24, 2014 Friday, January 24, 2014 9:56:00 AM CST January 24, 2014 in News
By: Megan Schultz

COLUMBIA - The Family Health Center is hosting a free health care event at the Boone County Public Library Saturday, but not everyone believes the event will succeed in getting people to enroll in the health insurance marketplace.

People can go to the event from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Training Center to get information from certified health care navigators about affordable insurance plans.

"We're having an enrollment event so that we can just provide a central location in town where people can go to get help either just simply answering questions they have about health insurance or potentially even going through the enrollment process, applying and then purchasing a plan," said health care navigator Aaron Swaney.

According to Swaney, only 33,000 out of 877,000 uninsured Missourians have actually enrolled in the insurance marketplace as of December 28, 2013. That's less than four percent of uninsured Missourians.

The problem is that 2014 is the year people must sign up for insurance or get charged a penalty fee.

Swaney says the reason for the slow rollout is that people don't have the information they need to sign up for an affordable plan.

"One of the biggest issues we face in terms of just helping people learn what their health insurance options are or just there's a whole lot of lack of information," Swaney said. "A lot of people say they don't know that they can actually get financial assistance and so they know that health insurance has been unaffordable for them in the past so they don't even bother to look and see if they can find something that they can afford."

But C. Bruce Cornett, chairman of the Boone County Central Republican Committee, says the reason that such a small percentage of people have enrolled is not because of lack of information.

"It's been good information about the bad system," Cornett said. "Now we're finding out that you can sign up but that doesn't mean you have health insurance because the back end isn't done. And I think people are very skeptical about what they're getting when they do sign up."

He says the real reason for the slow rollout is the insurance is too expensive.

"The premium is going up not only for people who are uninsured and are trying to get it for the first time, it's going to be expensive, and then other people who have had it for years, it's going to get more expensive," Cornett said.

 But Swaney doesn't agree.

"I would say that the majority of people who say that insurance is unaffordable probably aren't even bothering to look at what their costs are going to be," Swaney said. "You have to be willing to just go get help and see what your actions really are before just saying 'Oh I know it's not going to be affordable. I know it's not going to be affordable.'"

Cornett also says some people are just irresponsible, pointing to people who make more than $50,000 and still refuse to buy insurance. "People with the resources to have insurance never signed up for it, so why should they start now?"

For these reasons, Cornett doesn't see events like those on Saturday having a major effect on health care enrollment.

But Swaney points to history.

"With any big social program, I know that there are a lot of issues with rollout," Swaney said. "That was through Medicare Part D in the early 2000s, that was through Social Security in the '30s, that was through Medicare and Medicaid in the 60s, and it's a process. It's not like any of those programs, it was like year one everything was going great, but now they're fixtures in the U.S. and so I would say that just saying something is not going to work and then not trying it at all and then not providing a solution is not really an effective strategy."

If you plan on attending the event and purchasing health care insurance, the Family Health Center asks you to bring your 1040 and social security number.

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