STAFF WRITER

marian galbraith

Nurse practitioner Donna Seely of Partners for Healing, a non-profit health clinic for the working uninsured, will host a seminar at D.W. Wilson Community Center next month on the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

The presentation will focus on how the new laws taking effect next year will impact individuals, families and small businesses with up to 50 employees and how they choose their coverage.

“The most important part of the Act that starts next year is the new health insurance ‘exchanges,’ where buyers can fill out one online applications and choose from all the options available in their area.”

According to the healthcare.gov web page regarding the online exchanges, also known as the “health insurance marketplace,” customers will be made aware of how they can qualify for low-cost and free healthcare options, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program, as well as ways to reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

“The exchanges will allow you to choose the level of coverage you want, such as ‘bronze’ silver, gold and platinum,” she said, “and I think there will also be a category for those who only wish to obtain only ‘catastrophic’ insurance that doesn’t include doctor visits.

“The main thing I want to get across, though, is that the enrollment period begins October 1, 2013 and ends March 13, 2014,” Seely said, “and you enroll online.

“For those who need assistance with the online process, there will be trained volunteers that can help you, but you’ll need to know which ones are properly qualified to do so.”

Seely explained that, since Gov. Bill Haslam chose not to accept the federal funds for Medicaid expansion, there is very little funding available for trained professional agents, which some states have, but she hopes there will be sufficient numbers of volunteers who will go through the training process and donate their time to help those who need it.

“So far, I plan to volunteer in Coffee County and Nancy Silvertooth plans to volunteer in Franklin County,” she said, “and I believe there are several more who plan to complete the training for it.”

Training will be provided by government-approved non-profit agencies, she said, who must be properly trained themselves.

“This is sensitive, private information you’ll be submitting,” Seely said, “so you’ll need to make sure that whoever is helping you has been approved by the proper agencies.”

Additional topics will include the new rules that prevent insurers from turning customers down for pre-existing conditions or imposing lifetime limits on coverage.

“These new rules will be very important for people with serious and chronic illnesses like cancer or multiple sclerosis, where the drugs and treatments are very expensive,” she said.

She added that the new plan is “far from perfect,” but that she hopes it will provide a starting point for healthcare reform.

“There are a lot of loopholes and other things I don’t like about the Affordable Care Act,” Seely said, “but at least it’s a place to start, and hopefully we will be able to fix some of the problems as we go, like we did with Medicare.”

The seminar is open to the public and begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, September 14, at D.W. Wilson Community Center, 501 N. Collins Street in Tullahoma.

The event is sponsored by the Coffee County Democratic Party as part of its community awareness series.

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