1:07pm

Mon March 24, 2014
Community

Affordable Care Deadline Approaches; Medicaid Gap May Hinder Enrollees

People seeking ACA enrollment help can enter their zip codes at HealthCare.gov and find local organizations.

Tennessee has about 890,000 residents who are uninsured and eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to Bill Corr, Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

"For these people," Corr says, it’s "extremely important" to sign up.  People who miss the deadline may have to pay a penalty.

However, some may need assistance, and some may not qualify for certain subsidies.

In this conversation with WUTC's Michael Edward Miller, Corr discusses Affordable Care benefits, how people can get assistance with enrollment, and how the Medicaid Gap might prevent some people from obtaining coverage.

Corr says Chattanooga has about 43,000 eligible residents.

FALLING INTO THE GAP

About 162,000 Tennesseans who try to sign up may discover they're hindered by the coverage gap, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.  The report says these uninsured adults will not gain a new coverage option and will likely remain uninsured.

In Tennessee, the gap is the result of Governor Bill Haslam's refusal to accept federal funds.

"It is very perplexing to watch elected officials rail against the Affordable Care Act," Corr says.  "Let me tell you what Tennessee is giving up by not expanding Medicaid.  The federal government will cover 100% of the cost of expanding Medicaid in the first three years and then 90% thereafter.  So Tennessee is turning down $6.2 million every single day."

But Republican state lawmakers are wary.

"[W]e can't trust the federal government to live up to its promises," Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, wrote in an e-mail to WUTC, "and thus taking the federal funds would be irresponsible.

Durham says Tenncare represents "84% of state budget growth," and that "expanding Medicaid would further the problem.  Our state almost went bankrupt in 2005 before removing 172,000 people from the rolls and Medicaid Expansion would put an even higher number back on the rolls."

So Durham says accepting the federal funds would put taxpayers in a precarious position.

Even if Gov. Haslam were to change his mind at the last minute and try to accept the funds, state Republicans recently passed legislation that could prevent Gov. Haslam doing so.

Twenty-four other states have also refused these funds.

DEADLINE IS MARCH 31st

With the deadline looming, an event will take place in Chattanooga to help eligible people sign up.  On Thursday, March 27th from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at East Lake Academy, there will be an enrollment event providing assistance.  People can call (423) 240-4702 to make an appointment.

Many other area organizations also offer assistance.  A list can be found at HealthCare.gov.

NPR's Web site also offers answers.