But in the long run, cancer survivor and health care reform advocate Charlie Kulander believes the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will help millions of Americans.
“I’ve found myself becoming somewhat of an Obamacare evangelical,” the local freelance writer said this week. “It’s a complicated piece of legislation, with many moving parts, but it is the greatest piece of social legislation since 1965, and will save countless lives.”
Kulander said he hates to wade into the political debate over the 906-page law. But he thinks it’s wildly inappropriate that someone would tell another person not to sign up for insurance through the new health care marketplace at www.healthcare.gov.
“The one thing that sticks in everybody’s craw is the individual mandate,” which requires most Americans to carry some form of health insurance, Kulander said.
Some people may be eligible for exemptions from the individual mandate, he noted. Regardless of the controversy over that provision, though, Kulander is convinced that the overall law has something for everyone.
That includes himself, his wife and his nephew – all of whom were diagnosed with cancer in recent years.
Kulander and his wife received the news within eight months of each other almost five years ago.
The couple had maintained their health insurance policies over 25 years, and they were paying exorbitant premiums to remain covered, Kulander said.
Even so, their deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses were high, and they ultimately wound up taking on debt in order to pay for their medical care.
“It adds up,” he said. “It was just a financial burden we could not support.”
As he learned more and more about health care reform, Kulander came to think of it as the salvation of people like himself and his wife.
He said the single greatest thing about the law is its provision to expand preventive services, which will allow consumers to obtain free screenings for chronic health problems and diseases, including diabetes.
If those services had been available in the past, Kulander believes his nephew’s stage-4 colon cancer would have been detected long before it reached that point.
“It wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Kulander is also thrilled that insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people who have pre-existing medical conditions.
“I’ve been delving into the nuts and bolts of Obamacare since it came out because I knew it was our salvation here,” he said.
That research ultimately led Kulander and his wife into a new career field.
The couple recently completed the training process to become Certified Application Counselors (CACs), and they’re teaming up with the Moab Free Health Clinic to help residents make sense of the complicated law.
On Oct. 23 at 6 p.m., the clinic will be hosting a free forum on health care reform at the Grand County Public Library. The event will offer Moab-area residents the chance to learn about the enrollment process, as well as the local resources that may be available to them.
The next day, the clinic and the Kulanders will be hosting a question-and-answer session and individual consultations; detailed meeting times had not been scheduled as of this week.
In the meantime, local residents who have any questions about the new law can call the Moab Free Health Clinic at 435-259-1113.
Clinic staffers are still absorbing all 906 pages of the Affordable Care Act, so if they can’t answer any questions right off the bat, they’ll try to track down some more information and get back to callers, according to program coordinator Anjelica Oien.
Anyone who is seeking more information can also visit the official health care marketplace at www.healthcare.gov, or call 800-318-2596. The phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Small business owners with 50 or fewer employees can call 800-706-7893 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Mondays through Fridays; agents and brokers can call the same number.
The initial open enrollment period for coverage under the new law opened on Oct. 1 and runs through March 31, 2014. Anyone who wants coverage to kick in at the earliest possible date on Jan. 1 must apply by Dec. 15.
While the healthcare.gov website is one possible resource for information about the law, it’s been plagued by technical glitches, causing delays in online registration.
Kulander said it’s not a bad idea for uninsured consumers to wait to visit the website until it’s running smoothly again.
“The best advice is for everyone to take a deep breath and wait for a month or two, and let all the wrinkles work out of the system,” he said.
Health care 101: the basics of the Affordable Care Act
Those who are among the estimated 376,000 Utahns who lacked health insurance last year can now find coverage through the new online marketplace at www.healthcare.gov.
Plans sold through the marketplace fall under four categories: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans are the cheapest, while platinum plans are the most expensive.
Bronze plans carry higher out-of-pocket costs for medical care. On average, a consumer would be responsible for 40 percent of the cost.
Those insured under platinum plans would pay an average of 10 percent of their medical costs.
Rates may vary, depending on a person’s age, family size and geographic location. Some people may also be eligible for subsidies, based on income levels.
All four plans cover 10 essential health benefits, including outpatient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services and access to prescription drugs.
Utah residents will buy their plans through the new federal marketplace at www.healthcare.gov, or by calling 800-318-2596.
Information about Avenue H’s separate exchange for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees is available at www.avenueh.com, or by calling 855- 850-2834.
Those who currently have job-based health insurance and are happy with it may keep it.
Everyone should be aware that scammers and con artists are taking advantage of the confusion over the new law. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers not to share their financial information or other personal details with anyone who contacts them about the Affordable Care Act.
Sources: www.healthcare.gov, Better Business Bureau