January 2

Mount Vernon couple among many with questions about new health coverage

Some central Maine residents say they are worried about getting coverage on time following earlier glitches in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Beth and Russ Evans, of Mount Vernon, have been on an insurance odyssey the last several months, trying to replace their large-deductible policy that became invalid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

As self-employed consultants, the couple, who are both in their 50s, said they eventually settled on a new policy that appears to pass muster with the new law and meet the federal mandate that they have insurance.

But even as the coverage takes effect Wednesday , they still don’t know if their plan is good enough. On Dec.24, after months of attempting to navigate error-prone HealthCare.gov, they chose a policy, but they haven’t received a confirmation and were not able to find out what doctors they could use under the new insurance, they said.

They also said they haven’t received a bill from the insurance company.

“You hear so much about people opposed to the Affordable Care Act and that’s not us,” Beth Evans said. “Once it was here we accepted and embraced it. We’re really excited at the idea of actual health care, but it’s scary to have no idea what we have.”

The first insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act will go into effect Wednesday , the next step in a federal plan to provide health care for the uninsured. About 1.1 million people nationwide who have signed up are expecting their new health care plans to take effect.

The promise of affordable health care is a positive improvement for some, yet for others it has meant unexpected frustrations with the rollout of the new system. Across the country, the Obama administration has received backlash for technical difficulties that have delayed signups for the new health insurance plans, particularly on the HealthCare.gov website.

Russ and Beth Evans have struggled with health insurance options since leaving regular employment.

In October, when health insurance signups opened up, they thought the new insurance plans would be a good thing. They said they are healthy overall, but do pay for some prescriptions out of pocket.

They also have a 24-year-old daughter, a student who works part-time at TJ Maxx and lives in Augusta, and they are concerned she will not be able to get coverage.

With health insurance coverage scheduled to begin on Wednesday , the couple said they don’t know what will happen. Without a confirmation of enrollment or a bill, they are worried they will be without insurance at least temporarily.

Getting better

“I do believe the website is improving and more people are having more success,” said Connie Coggins, president of HealthReach Community Health Centers, a Waterville-based network of 11 regional health clinics that has been active in helping people enroll in the health insurance marketplace. “Our counselors have commented that it’s gotten better in terms of the technical glitches and I think more information is out there for consumers as well.

“A number of people probably still don’t understand what might be available to them.”

The clinic has assisted about 200 people per month since October in different aspects of the signup, whether it is walking them through the entire process or giving them the information they need to sign-up online, she said.

“We’re expecting that some of our patients who haven’t really had the resources to pay for coverage will now have health insurance. It’s hard for us to tell before people start presenting at their visits, how many of our individual patients will have coverage,” said Coggins.

Those who haven’t signed up for insurance are subject to financial penalty under the law’s individual mandate, which goes into effect after open enrollment ends on March 31, according to HealthCare.gov.

‘Unfair’ to those who wait

(Continued on page 2)

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