Health Care Act: Knowledge gap continues

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 114 views 

Politicians and health care professionals have been voicing their opinions about the Affordable Care Act for two years now, but the average consumer has barely paid attention.

A recent survey by found many consumers are still in the dark about how this sweeping legislation will impact their pocketbook or their employer’s benefit package.

Roughly 40% of Americans expect the law to have a major effect on their lives, nearly as many forecast a minor impact and 19% don’t expect any changes.

Only 10% of consumers are very knowledgeable, despite scores of media reports since 2011. 

Laura Adams, senior analyst with the insurance division of, says the research shows slightly more than one-third of consumers are somewhat knowledgeable about aspects of the law, particularly the clause that mandates coverage, irregardless of pre-exiting conditions.

Adams said 90% of consumers don’t know when new health care insurance exchanges will open and yet thousands of Americans will need to use them in the coming months.

The online exchanges will provide consumers who are not insured by an employer or some other program the ability to shop for coverage.

The Arkansas exchange will open Oct. 1. The state has opted to work together with the federal government in a shared capacity, instead of running its own site independently.

Adams said the open enrollment period will begin Oct. 1, and consumers will be required to work with a health navigator (state of federal liaison) who can ensure that questions are answered and paperwork is completed before the law kicks in on Jan. 1.

“The state sites will not be up and active prior Oct. 1 but there are exchanges already selling coverage today,” Adams said.

She adds that insurance companies offering plans through the mandated exchange will be in compliance with all the new federal guidelines. That may or may not be the case with other online sites or exchanges.

In Benton County, roughly 19% of adults are not insured, this is the lowest uninsured rate (by county) in the state but still higher than the 11% benchmark required by the new federal law.

In Washington County, 23% of adults are not insured, the same percentage as in neighboring Crawford County. Sebastian County has a slightly higher number of uninsured at 24%, according to the government website.

To get to the national benchmark, thousands in the four counties will likely need to purchase insurance through an exchange, the exception would be certain senior citizens on Medicare and some Medicaid recipients.

“People need to study up on the health care reform issue and what it means for them. “We find an inconsistent understanding of the Affordable Care Act, and we and fear that many people will miss key deadlines and benefits because they don’t adequately understand the new law,” Adams said.

One high profile health professional couldn’t agree more. Scott Street, CEO of Mercy Health System for Northwest Arkansas, recently shared with several hundred residents who attended the Bentonville-Bella Vista Chamber dinner that “Obamacare” is rapidly changing the entire landscape of health care.”

“Don’t just listen to me or others talk about where health care is going, we often preach a negative tone and there is good and bad. But be educated and speak up if you don’t like what you are seeing …  then stand up and speak out so that health care can survive and continue to thrive in this country. We need to run as far from socialized health care as possible,” Street said.