Cover Missouri Still Working on Affordable Care Education

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COLUMBIA - With less than three weeks until open enrollment begins to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, those hired to educate Missouri residents say there's still a lot of details to iron out.

Thursday night, Cover Missouri made a presentation to the Columbia Board of Health to explain the basics of the Affordable Care Act and how local residents can get educated on the bill and various plans.

To educate people on the new healthcare act and what plans are best for them, the federal government is providing funding to organizations around the nation. In Missouri, the two organizations responsible for informing the public through certified trainers called navigators are the Missouri Alliance of Area Agencies on Aging and Primaris Healthcare Business Solutions. The navigators will have to complete 30 hours of training before they become certified and hired by one of the two federally-funded agencies.

The other focus of the meeting was so-called marketplaces, which according to Martha Stevens, the presenter for Cover Missouri, are a lot like travel sites like Kayak or Expedia where people can find the best and most affordable plan for them.

However, the agencies still haven't finished hiring navigators, organizers still don't don't know which plans will be available through the marketplaces, and the days and times to set up meetings with navigators haven't been decided yet.

The chairman of the Columbia Board of Health says he believes there's still many obstacles to overcome before people can begin enrolling in the Affordable Care plans from October 1 to March 31.

"People are going to get fined if they don't have insurance and yet it's not really clear how they're going to be able to sign up for this, what the products are going to be, and who's going to offer them," Michael Szewczyk, Chairman of the Columbia Board of Health, said. "As we know, some groups have the ability to delay, like businesses for a year, but the private individual hasn't gotten the ability to delay."

But the presenter for Cover Missouri is opitimistic.

"There are a lot of really energetic organizations that believe in healthcare reform and want to make this happen and are putting a lot of resources into doing the education outreach and feet on the ground to get the word out," Martha Stevens, the presenter for Cover Missouri said.

Planned Parenthood will repeat its presentation to the public on Tuesday, September 17 from 5:30-7 pm at the Columbia Public Library.