Beverly Frazier, a retired retail worker and a community activist in north Omaha, was there Monday to listen and spread the word to members of her retirement community and, next Sunday, the members of her church.
“Insurance can be a tricky thing, the ins and the outs. That's why the information that was shared today is so vital, ” said Frazier, 67, one of more than 60 people who attended the First Monday Forum at Chef Mike's Community Cafe, 24th and Lake Streets.
This month's topic — the Affordable Care Act.
Preston Love Jr., one of the forum's organizers, delivered this message to participants: Forget the political battles filling the airwaves, and focus on what affordable health insurance will mean to “you and your family and what actions you need to take.”
Love brought together health care providers, community members and the president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Nebraska to help explain income requirements, available tax credits, preventive care and where people can go to get help navigating the online health care marketplaces, which open Oct. 1.
“Most people don't have a clue about Obamacare,” said Love. “This meeting is about providing my community with information about the Affordable Care Act, how it relates to an individual or family's situation and what actions they need to take.”
Activists in north Omaha are banking on the program's affordability and what that feature will mean to generations of families that have gone without health care because it wasn't within their economic reach.
“We want people to learn to budget for their monthly health insurance, just like they would for your rent or food,” said Richard Brown, chief executive of the Charles Drew Health Center. “I can't tell you today what those premiums are going to be, but the key factor now is it's going to be affordable.”
In addition to seeing patients, the center will be helping people through the enrollment process.
“If you need an email account, we'll help you with that,” Brown said. “We have at least four application counselors.”
Brown said later that he and his staff hope to encourage young adults to purchase health insurance. While many young adults see themselves as invulnerable, the reality is they suffer from their own particular set of ailments, he said.
“We see a lot of depression, suicide and alcohol and substance abuse, and while people don't want to talk about it, we have an STD epidemic,” Brown said.
Affordable health insurance “creates the opportunity for people to keep themselves healthy,” Brown said. “It's about determining your destiny ... and in the long run it's going to save the federal government money.”
Frazier, a volunteer at the health center, hopes to be one of the center's facilitators when the online health insurance markets appear beginning Oct. 1. Representatives from AARP, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and community groups were on hand to take questions.
Lisa Laday-Davis, president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Nebraska, emphasized that under the Affordable Care Act, individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health insurance and that preventive coverage such as annual checkups and children's physicals will not require co-pays.
What constitutes preventive care will, in some cases, be determined by your age, Davis told an audience member who asked whether colonoscopies would be part of the preventive care for those over age 50.
“There will be a list of services of what constitutes preventive care,” Davis said.
Preston and Brown both say that affordable health insurance will be a game changer, helping transform the community.
“Right now, health insurance is not affordable for people, especially for someone who has three or four people in their family,” Brown said. “This is a great thing. If you have your health, you can work, you can get an education.”