The University of Missouri Extension, in collaboration with representatives from Freeman Health System and Mercy, offered an Affordable Care Act workshop Monday evening at the Neosho High School, intended to educate the public on the new healthcare law.
The workshop offered basic information on the new healthcare law, including how the changes would affect local residents, how to sign up, expected costs associated with the different plans, and information on penalty fees for those who elect not to get coverage.
"What we tried to do is just lay out the facts, eliminate all the political back and forth and give you the facts so you can all go home and make some informed decisions," said Mercy Senior Markets Specialist Julie Beatty. "I think that the biggest take-away from tonight is that the best thing to do is get yourself educated."
Lydia Kaume, professional and nutrition health specialist for the Missouri Extension Center, said there are several scenarios in which an individual does not have to change their current insurance coverage, including: if covered by employer-sponsored insurance, private insurance, Medicare parts A, B, C or D, Medicaid, military coverage including VA, TriCare or CHAMPUA, Indian health services or Cobra.
Kaume said changes that come along with the new healthcare law include a list of 10 benefits now required to be covered.
She said the 10 basic benefits required by the Affordable Care Act are:
• Pre and postnatal care
• Outpatient care
• Emergency room visits
• Hospital inpatient care
• Mental health and substance use services
• Prescription drugs
• Services during injury or for chronic conditions, including therapy
• Lab tests
• Preventive services
• Pediatric services, including dental and vision
"The Affordable Care Act is a very complex law with many, many parts to it," Kaume said, noting that only the healthcare portion could be covered in the workshops.
She said the act provides new options for buying health insurance, locally through the Missouri Health Insurance Marketplace.
The plans include catastrophic coverage, which only those under the age of 30 or suffering hardship are eligible for, as well as bronze, silver and gold plans.
There are also platinum plans, however, Kaume said the Missouri marketplace does not include any of the platinum level plans.
The level of plan represents the amount of coverage the individual would be responsible for, with the bronze plan covering 60 percent of costs with the insured individual picking up the other 40 percent, the silver plan which includes 70/30 coverage and the gold plan, the highest coverage available in the Missouri marketplace, which covers 80 percent, with 20 percent to be picked up by the plan holder.
Kaume said estimated costs per plan range from $140 to $218 for a bronze plan, $186 to $270 for a silver plan, and $211 to $335 for a gold plan.
Page 2 of 2 - Meanwhile, the catastrophic plan runs from $89 to $158.
Those wishing to begin coverage on January 1 should sign up by Dec. 15, Kaume said.
However, Monday's workshop also covered the costs for those who choose not to enroll in an insurance plan.
Janet LaFon, family financial education specialist for MU Extension Center, said while some can opt out of buying insurance with a waiver, many will be charged a penalty fee to opt out.
"The penalty part is something that has been in the news a lot lately," LaFon said. "We hear people say frequently 'this is just all so confusing, I'm just not going to mess with it, I'm just going to pay the penalty, it's only $95 is all they're going to charge me.' Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Starting in 2014 they are going to be increasing each year over the next three years the amount of penalty you have to pay."
LaFon said the first year adults will be charged $95, in addition to $47.50 per child in the household, though a family will be capped at the amount of $285.
Though, LaFon said that amount could also be 1 percent of the family's income, if greater than the assigned fees.
She said that amount will also grow in 2015, up to $325 per adult, $162.50 per child or up to 2 percent of the family income.
LaFon said there is a premium tax credit available for those who qualify to offset some of the costs of the insurance plan premiums purchased in the marketplace.
For more information on the Affordable Care Act visit www.healthcare.gov, http://insurance.mo.gov, or call 1-800-318-2596.