Dee Collins isn’t letting all the negative news about the Affordable Care Act rattle her.
Yes, there are problems with the online registration, she says.
“But there are ways around it,” she said. “I can help you today.”
Collins is a Certified Application Counselor whose job is to help primarily those without health insurance sign up for a plan. For many, it’s their first time to have health insurance.
She works through the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas and divides her time between Iola’s office at 1408 East St., and Coffeyville. Her duties are similar to ACA Navigators, except Collins isn’t required to do outreach, such as presenting workshops.
Because the online registration process is still not reliable, Collins recommends either completing a paper application or calling the government’s health line, 1-800-318-2596.
“If you don’t mind talking with someone on the phone and telling about yourself, the helpline works great,” she said, estimating it takes 15-20 minutes to register.
Collins said she has helped people get insurance “every day,” under the new program.
The benefits best tell the story.
Collins told of how she helped a minister who had a 19-year-old child and was paying $700 a month in conventional health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, his new premium for the two of them will be $227 a month. His wife receives benefits through Medicare.
Using the InsureKS.gov website, Collins used several scenarios to show the savings U.S. citizens will get through the ACA.
For example, a single, 55-year-old woman in Southeast Kansas making $20,000 year, would be charged an estimated $85 a month for health insurance.
Her age, her income, the fact that she lives in rural Kansas, and that she does not smoke, all factor into determine her premium and the rebate she will receive. While her actual premium is $387 a month, she’ll receive a tax credit of $302 a month.
Collins then researched the coverage for a married couple, each 41, with one child under 20, and earning $32,000 a year. Their health insurance premium would be $174 a month. They would be advanced a monthly tax credit of $163 to be applied to their premium of $336.
“Please come see what’s out there,” in terms of plans, Collins said.
For those who receive health insurance from their jobs or through Medicare, the Affordable Care Act does not apply.
COLLINS is no stranger to helping others. The daughter of a minister, Collins said she grew up watching both of her parents come to the aid of others. “I couldn’t run away from their teachings,” she said.
Collins is a nurse as well as an administrator. In addition to a degree in nursing she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology and a master’s degree in healthcare administration.
She has worked for the Child and Family Services, in long-term healthcare, home-based healthcare, and with the Supplemental Security Income program.
Collins said she views her work helping implement the ACA “as a ministry of sorts.”
IT’S NOT ALL good news for Collins. Sometimes she has to tell people they don’t make enough money to qualify for the tax credits through new health insurance program. Tax credits are available for those who make 100-400 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, the poverty line is an annual income of $11,500.
The “plan” was for those who make less than the FPL would receive benefits through their state’s Medicaid program.
In Kansas, those who make between 32 percent of the federal poverty line and on up to the actual FPL do not qualify for Medicaid, and hence are denied a tax credit to apply toward a health insurance plan. The upper income limit for a Kansas family to receive Medicaid is $7,800. Only adults with children can receive Medicaid.
This “doughnut hole” in coverage affects about 78,000 Kansans.
States were offered a plan to expand their Medicaid roles to cover residents up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or just under $15,900 for an individual. Under the plan, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs of the expansion for the first three years, and then 90 percent from then on out.
Kansas deferred accepting the expansion.
“It’s hard to tell people they are too poor to receive the coverage, but too rich to qualify for Medicaid,” Collins said.
“I hope members of the Legislature will change their mind in the upcoming session and vote to expand the Medicaid rolls,” she said.
In those instances, Collins said the best news she can tell applicants is that they can be exempted from paying the penalty for not having health insurance because they are in desperate circumstances.
Beginning next spring, the penalty for not having health insurance will be $95 or 1 percent of a person’s income, which ever is greater. The maximum penalty is $285.