ACA forum focuses on local resources
JANESVILLE—A variety of problems with the federal rollout of the Affordable Care Act have led to uncertainty and indecision at the state level.
In turn, that's tied the hands of people at the local level who are trying to disseminate information about the new law, which for some people requires action in the next three weeks.
The problems started with the federal government's launch of its online marketplace exchange, where consumers were supposed to start buying insurance plans Oct. 1.
The waters became muddier last week when the problems forced President Barack Obama to reverse himself and allow millions of Americans to renew existing plans that were ticketed for cancellation under the new law.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker responded by calling for a special legislative session to extend the deadline for moving 77,000 people off Medicaid until April. Walker said people need more time to sign up for private insurance through the problematic federal exchange.
Carla Haigh, Rock County's economic support division manager, said Walker's decision changed months of planning.
“Now we're stopped again,” she said, referring to the special session scheduled for Dec. 4.
Haigh and several others spoke Wednesday night at a Rock County Affordable Care Act Community Forum sponsored by the Janesville and Beloit city councils.
The forum was designed as an outreach effort to get health care information and resources to those in need, said Kathy Voskuil, president of the Janesville council.
“This is an extremely fluid situation,” she said in regards the law and potential changes. “What we can talk about is what we know as of 6:06 tonight.”
The fluidity of the health care conversation was evident earlier Wednesday at a meeting of the Westgate Corridor, a coalition of Westside Janesville business interests.
Bill Boyd of Boyd Consulting Group was scheduled to discuss the law's impacts on small businesses. Boyd, however, canceled his discussion.
“We couldn't speak intelligently on the subject until the state decides on the direction it is going to take, and I didn't want to mislead any of our business owners by giving them information that could, and probably will, change by weeks-end,” said Boyd, whose Janesville company designs and implements employee benefit plans for more than 150 companies in several states.
Instead, Bob Clark of Bob Clark Insurance addressed the group. His advice was that small businesses stay away from the new law as long as they can by renewing existing policies
Kathleen Falk was recently appointed as the Region V director of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, serving the area as a representative of Sec. Kathleen Sebelius.
Falk, participating in the councils' forum via teleconference, said Sebelius and Obama are “devoting enormous attention and resources” to solving the exchange's online problems. Error rates and response times are improving daily, she said, and the administration is confident the online system will work for the majority of Americans by the end of November.
Problems aside, she said the ACA is an “exciting and important opportunity for our state and for our nation." She said 500,000 Wisconsinites without insurance will get it, and those who already have it will get better insurance.
She also trumpeted several of the law's benefits, including coverage for children up to age 26, extended coverage for certain procedures, non-discrimination based on gender or pre-existing conditions and the end of annual or lifetime limits on coverage.
Phil Boutwell, Rock County's deputy director of human services, said the county has prepared for an estimated 2,300 people who will come off BadgerCare and for an estimated 3,000 who will join its rolls.
In addition, he said, it's been estimated that 20,000 residents would be required to seek coverage in the marketplace, and about 10,000 of them would actually do so.
“That population hasn't gone away,” Boutwell said. “The individual mandate hasn't gone away, although there will likely be BadgerCare changes.
“The website needs to be fixed, and it needs to be safe. When that happens we can do more community outreach.”
ACA HELP IN ROCK COUNTY
Informational in-person sessions
MercyCare Health Plans
-- 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Dec. 10 in room G380B at Mercy Walworth Hospital & Medical Center, N2950 Highway 67, Lake Geneva.
-- 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Dec. 11 at Mercy Beloit Medical Center, 2825 Prairie Ave., Beloit.
-- 10:30 a.m. Fridays through Dec. 13 in room 1 at Mercy Health Mall, 1010 N. Washington St., Janesville.
More information is available by calling 1-800-895-2421.
Dean Health Plan
-- 5 p.m., Wednesday Nov. 20 in the Prairie View Café at St. Mary's Janesville Hospital, 3400 E. Racine St., Janesville.
For more information, call 1-800-279-1301.
Beloit Health System
-- 10 a.m. Tuesdays through Dec. 10 at 1905 Huebbe Parkway, Beloit.
-- 11 a.m. Wednesdays through Dec. 11 at 1905 Huebbe Parkway, Beloit.
For more information, call 608-364-1539.
Available computers with assisters and/or certified application counselors
Assisters are people who can communicate with the public about options and how to connect with the enrollment support network.
Certified application counselors are people who have completed federal or state training to help people with enrollment and guidance through the website but not give advice on plans.
-- Beloit Health System, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1969 W. Hart Road or 1905 Huebbe Parkway, Beloit, or at Northpointe, 5605 E. Rockton Road, Roscoe, Ill.
For more information, call 608-364-1539.
-- Community Health Systems, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays (counselors and assisters) at 74 Eclipse Center, Beloit.
For more information, call 608-361-0311.
-- Dean and St. Mary's Janesville, 3400 E. Racine St., Janesville, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays (agents and assisters) in the health resources library. Dean Health Plan licensed agents are available from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and 8:30 to 11 a.m. Thursdays.
For more information, call 608-373-8000.
-- Edgerton Hospital, 11101 N. Sherman Road, Edgerton, assisters by appointment.
For more information, call 608-884-3441.
-- HealthNet of Rock County, 23 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville, counselors and assisters during clinic hours.
For more information, call 608-314-1920.
-- MercyCare Health Plans, 3430 Palmer Dr., Janesville, counselors and assisters from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
For more information, call 1-800-895-2421.
-- Rock County Economic Support, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville, assisters from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
For more information, call 608-741-3400.
Available computers without assisters and/or certified application counselors
-- Edgerton Community Outreach, 106 S. Main St., Edgerton, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays.
For more information, call 608-884-9593.
-- Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays in the resource room.
-- Beloit Public Library, 605 Eclipse Blvd., Beloit, from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
For more information, call 608-364-2905.
-- Clinton Public Library, 214 Mill St., Clinton, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information, call 608-676-5569.
-- Eager Free Public Library, 39 W. Main St., Evansville, from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information, call 608-882-2260.
-- Edgerton Public Library, 101 Albion St., Edgerton, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information, call 608-884-4511.
-- Hedberg Public Library, 316 S. Main St., Janesville, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.
For more information, call 608-758-6588.
-- Milton Public Library, 430 E. High St., Milton, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and from 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.
For more information, call 608-868-7462.
-- Orfordville Public Library, 203 W. Beloit St., Orfordville, from noon to 7 p.m. weekdays.
For more information, call 608-879-9229.
Assisters, certified application counselors and agents or brokers
-- Rock County Council on Aging, 3328 Highway 51, Janesville, one assister.
For more information, call 608-921-3688.
-- St. Mary's Janesville Hospital, 3400 E. Racine St., Janesville, two counselors by appointment.
For more information, call 608-373-8792.
-- Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville, one assister.
For more information, call 608-741-3564.