Help with affordable health care

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Those who don’t have health insurance must sign up because it is the law; whether you agree or disagree with the law. You must go online to Healthcare.gov.

In a recent Editorial Board with representatives of the groups responsible for helping people sign up I learned quite a lot about the Affordable Care Act implementation. Most importantly, I found out there’s a group of people in Pennsylvania, and throughout the country, who are responsible for making sure all questions and concerns are answered and people are signed up for the health insurance of their choice.

There are millions of people in this country who still don’t feel comfortable about putting their life on the computer screen; they want to talk to a person. And with this group they will get that wish. There are millions of people in this country who still have questions about the Affordable Care Act, and these people are here to answer these questions.

No they are not politicians. They are not seeking election, or re-election. They have been paid to do a job, and that job is to make sure everyone who wants to register for insurance gets registered, with little to no confusion.

The Courier had an extensive story about this process in last week’s paper, and I’m following up to make sure everyone understands that there is help out there for you in your quest to understand and sign up for health care.

The federal government has set up a team of local partners of “navigators” which is headed by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. They provide this service to Allegheny County, and nine other counties.

Pennsylvania, like most Republican controlled states, chose to allow the federal government to run the program instead of the state, primarily because they are against the Affordable Care Act, and have vowed to do almost anything to kill it. They are going to do everything possible to help it fail, or make it fail. They are more concerned about politics than the people who will be helped by this bill.  But if it succeeds, and I believe it will, it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

The three health providers in Allegheny County are UPMC, Highmark and HealthAmerica. They provide eight Bronze plans, 13 Silver plans, 13 Golden plans and one Platinum plan. I know, you are saying what the heck is this? It’s much like your car insurance, and all of us have owned a car at one time or another in our life. The Bronze plan, which is the lowest cost, has the highest deductible, covering about 60 percent of the services, after you have paid your share up front. Yes, just like your auto insurance. Silver 70 percent, Gold 80 percent, Platinum 90 percent.

I’m still curious as to how this is going to affect the 18 through 26 age group whose parents don’t have insurance?  Especially the full time college student who has little to no income? They didn’t answer this question because they don’t know.

Another thing that bothers me is that there are only three suppliers of insurance in Allegheny County. And is that the case throughout the state and country? At least with auto insurance there are a wide variety of nationally well known, and respected insurance companies. Part of the problem with the health industry is the insurance companies; many building monopolies such as UPMC here, and Highmark throughout the country.  This leads to little or no choice when it comes to health care. This was the case before the ACA and it’s still the case.

It should be interesting as to what the premiums will be in comparison of the three companies covering Allegheny County. UPMC and Highmark are already at war. Will Health America have equal access to the UPMC and Highmark hospitals and clinics? Now this has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act, but it will affect it.

Another question is when will the Republican led states get with the program?

Of course people with insurance, either individually or through their job, don’t have to worry about this, unless they lose their job. But in that case I would think it would be easier to get temporary help through the welfare system.

Where prices will go in the health care industry, nobody knows, but they should go down as more people sign up, especially young people, and that is what the ACA was meant to do.

Here’s some numbers if you are looking for answers. McGee 412-576-3297, the Consumer Health Coalition 412-456-1877 ext. 200; Enroll America 718-483-4986; the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, 412-512-9225; Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania 412-258-9539; and The Squirrel Hill Health Center, 412-904-5285. Hopefully there will be many more numbers coming from the Black community as well as the larger Black churches offering help, or people who can help.

(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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