Obamacare blitz attracts dozens in Macon

lmorris@macon.comMarch 13, 2014 

  • Health care enrollment scheduled in Warner Robins

    Assistance in signing up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be available 9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 22 at First Choice Primary Care, 207 Green St., Warner Robins.

Eric Jordan of Macon is the kind of person proponents of the Affordable Care Act say needs to sign up for coverage under the new law.

Jordan is 18 and healthy, he said, but he wants insurance coverage “just in case.”

Jordan, who has worked at Little Caesars for nearly four years, attended the health insurance enrollment blitz Thursday that was organized by The Medical Center of Central Georgia. The event was at Central Georgia Home Health on Eisenhower Parkway.

The deadline to get coverage this year under the new law is March 31. And for coverage beginning in 2015, the next sign-up period is in October.

Health policy experts have said that young, healthy adults need to enroll in the new health care plan -- also called Obamacare -- if it is to be sustainable. Qualified enrollees may get insurance through the Healthcare Marketplace Insurance Exchange.

Jordan, a senior at Northeast High School, said because he is young and doesn’t have any credit history that can confirm his identity, he couldn’t actually sign up for insurance at Thursday’s enrollment event but will find out later if he’s eligible.

By the end of the day, 80 people had shown up at the enrollment event, said Peggy Boyles, assistant director of patient access for the Medical Center.

A similar event in December drew about 130 people, some of whom had long waits.

But that was not the case Thursday.

Five trained health insurance navigators and other certified application counselors helped people find individual health care coverage that fit their budgets and healthcare needs. Those looking to enroll had the opportunity to ask questions and fill out an application for enrollment.

Cora Byrd of Macon was more than surprised after a short meeting with a counselor.

“I thought this would benefit poor people,” said Byrd, 64, who has no health insurance and is not quite old enough to qualify for Medicare. “It really doesn’t.”

She said she fell below the income level needed to qualify for an insurance plan Thursday.

“The people who are below that scale are the ones who really need insurance,” she said. “I am baffled. ... It’s a learning experience, because I had no idea that poor people are going through this.”

Boyles said Byrd is not the only one who didn’t know they weren’t eligible for a health insurance plan through Obamacare.

It’s a misconception “that this insurance is for the poor, because it’s really not,” Boyles said. “Georgia chose not to expand its Medicaid program so the ones that are really falling between the cracks are those who are not required to file income taxes because they are below the limits. When they get here to apply, their premiums are so high that there is no way they can afford it.”

Ronnie Griggs said he had tried several times to find out if he qualified for a plan through the insurance exchange.

“I went online and finished my application and tried to go to the marketplace, but (the site) kept going down,” said Griggs, 63. “I called them, and they told me to try back in two or three hours. So, I came out here to see if they could help me.”

Griggs said he is retired and doesn’t have insurance.

People who sign up for coverage and pay the premium by March 15 will begin receiving coverage on April 1, Boyles said. Anyone who signs up and pays from March 16-31 will be covered as of May 1.

People who do not enroll by the end of this month will have to wait until open enrollment in October to apply for coverage that will be effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Beginning this year, all Americans are required to have minimum health coverage, qualify for an exemption or pay a penalty to the government.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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