Health Commission reviews 'Obamacare' options

By James Ronald Skains"
Journal Correspondent

The key words during the Louisiana Health Care Commission (LHCC) meeting on Friday morning October 25 held at the Insurance Commission office in Baton Rouge were "subsidies and grants." One question that was vehemently ruled out of order by LFCC Chairman Donna Fraiche was "how many people have enrolled in the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) program?"

Ted Griggs, reporter with the Baton Rouge Advocate asked the question about how many people have actually enrolled in the AHCA in Louisiana. He was abruptly cut off and his question ruled out of order by Chairperson Fraiche.

In addition to the Piney Woods Journal and the Advocate, it was announced by the Chairperson of the Commission that Baton Rouge TV station WAFB and the Louisiana Hometown TV network were also filming the Commission meeting that focused the AHCA or as is commonly referred to as Obama Care.

The first groups of panelists were health care insurers, led by State Representative Greg Croner of Slidell who is CEO of Louisiana Health Cooperative; Chase Teche, a Senior VP with Blue Cross Blue Shield;and Billy Justice with Vantage Health Care of Monroe.\par }{\plain Croner, who represents LA House District 90, is also Chairman of the House Insurance Committee. His LA Health cooperative which was created in the summer of 2013 was funded by a $65 million loan from Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

The key word for the first group of panelist was "subsidies.

"The ultimate success for AHCA will depend upon the subsidies available to those who cannot afford insurance based upon their income," Croner acknowledged. "The national Kaiser Health Care organization has a Subsidy Calculator on their website that will calculate the amount of subsidy you will receive for you insurance premiums."

"The Kaiser Calculator is not 100% exact; so to get your exact subsidy you will need to talk with an insurance provider or visit the website," Croner pointed out.

"Our Health Care Cooperative has chosen the marketing strategy of using brokers and agents who are already in place offering health care insurance."

"I believe that a quote from Mark Twain most accurately describes where we are with the AJCA," Croner added. "Mark Twain said that when you have a cat by the tail, you don't know what is really going to happen."\par }{\plain Vantage Health Care, a Monroe based firm is one of four companies in Louisiana offering AHCA coverage. Billy Justice, the Marketing and Sales Director for Vantage noted that the major problem so far with the AHCA program was the inability of government website to function properly.

"We can put a robot on Mars to send back soil samples but we can't build a website that will function properly for the AHCA program. It is very perplexing to have to work through or around this problem."

"On the marketing side of our Vantage Plan, we are advertising and promoting the AHCA program as we would any new insurance product,'' Justice said and then added. "Although we are based in North Louisiana, we have had our best response from people living south of I-10. We are still optimistic about our Vantage AHCA plan."

Chase Teche, SR VP with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana had a slightly different take on the initial results from the response of potential enrollees. "We have developed several plans to fit the different income and health issues that potential enrollees may have. We are ready and prepared and are active in enrolling people under the AFCA. I don't think we can have a fair estimate on what the overall response will be until the government website is fixed."

The next section of Committee agenda focused on the non-profit organizations efforts to enroll and educate people on the AHCA. The key words in this panel discussion centered on "grants," "navigators," and "subsidies."

One LA non-profit, Southwest LA Health Care Association had obtained a $1.1 million grant to hire navigators and educators to assist in enrolling people in the AHCA. One question asked was about the enrollment form degree of difficulty.

One answer was: "It is five pages long and complex. It would take a person with some degree of education to complete the application without help. That is where the "navigators" play such an important role in navigating people through the application process."

Other subjects covered were the verification of income to be able to calculate the subsidy available to each enrollee. "We are finding people who say they don't file income tax forms. We tell them that this program is all above board and is based on verifiable income."

Another question posed to the panelist was: If the website is not fixed soon, is there a Plan B and or C. The consensus answer from the non-profit panelist was: "Plan B would be for paper enrollment forms and Plan C would be telephone enrollment."

There are obviously several layers of people or businesses that stand to profit handsomely from the AHCA. It is also obvious that the program will evolve into a massive bureaucracy on the federal and state government levels.