Health Summit Addresses Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment

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COLUMBIA - Health care stakeholders and experts around the state came together Friday to discuss health care reform in Missouri.

Keynote speakers shared knowledge on federal health care overhaul and innovative technology in the field during the 11th Annual Health Policy Summit, "Moving Beyond Politics: Meaningful Health Reform for Missouri Communities" hosted by the University of Missouri Center for Health Policy.

The summit addressed the technical problems citizens have been facing as they began enrolling in the health insurance marketplace.

Karen Edison, director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of Missouri said she is very excited to hear from people who are out in the field, helping Missourians who don't have insurance to enroll in the new health insurance marketplace.

"We've heard that there were a lot of glitches and lots of troubles with that website early on, but finally we are getting through," Edison said. "We've heard from several of the navigators and certified application counselors that are helping people hook up to health insurance through the marketplace. So it's a very exciting time."

Seven panel speakers were at the summit, sharing ideas about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 and the technology changes in health care.

One of the speakers, Kit Wagar is the regional outreach specialist of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He is also an ACA Specialist for Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.

Although the health insurance marketplace has been through a rocky start due to the website, Wagar said affordable care is more than a website.

"The website is a doorway into the health insurance store, but the door isn't working very well right now," Wagar said. "But they are working on it, they are fixing it. The store is in great shape. We know what the policies are, we know what plans are there. People, especially middle-income people, can save a huge amount of money by using this marketplace."

Wagar also said now is a good time for people to try to find basic pieces of information they need to choose plans that fit their needs.

"If your income is below 400 percent of the poverty level, for a single person it's about $46,000 a year. For a family of four, if your income is below $94,000 per year, you can get help paying the price of the premiums," he said. "Some of these prices are very aggressive by insurance companies because they are trying to get customers. Even if you are low-income, a lot of times you can get a policy for zero premium depending on your income."

Wagar said about 700,000 people nationwide have gotten on the website, creating an account and actually filled out an application. But that doesn't mean they've reached the actual policies. It takes a while to decide which policy they want, he said.

"For example, here in Boone County, I believe there are between 18 to 25 choices. So it takes a while to look at to see which one fits your needs," Wagar said.

Wagar also said he thinks everything is working better than anticipated.

"One of the reasons that the website is overwhelmed was so many people were signing up and trying to find out what their options are, and that's a good thing," Wagar said.

The Health Policy Summit is hosted on the last Friday of October each year.