Local Columnists

August 17, 2014

Alan Bavley: Pushing past political rhetoric on Obamacare

More Kansans would take advantage of Obamacare, insurance brokerage official says, if the state expanded Medicaid and started giving people accurate information about the law.

A recent Gallup poll finds Kansas is the only state so far this year where the percentage of people lacking health insurance has gone up significantly. State government officials and think-tankers are skeptical.

Frank Taylor isn’t confident about the numbers either, but he is certain that a lot more Kansans would have health coverage if the state’s elected leaders would just cooperate with the Affordable Care Act: Expand the state’s Medicaid program as the ACA allows, he says. And start giving people accurate information about the law.

Taylor isn’t a politician. He’s marketing manager of Liberty Benefit Consultants, an insurance brokerage in Wichita. His firm decided early on to help people sign up for plans through the ACA’s federal marketplace, even if it didn’t always make commissions on the deals. Liberty Benefit also worked with social service agencies to hold ACA workshops in Wichita and points west.

The results were often disheartening. Taylor repeatedly met with hostility and ignorance about the ACA.

“The biggest thing we came across is that not very many people believe it’s going to be around next year. It didn’t matter to them because it was going to go away.”

Some didn’t even realize that the ACA was federal law, he said. They thought Obamacare was just something Barack Obama was doing on his own.

“We have to sit there and educate people. ‘(The ACA) is not trying to take away your job. It’s not going to take away your doctor.’ They say, ‘That’s not what we were told.’”

Taylor thinks that many people turned down coverage because they believed that political rhetoric. But others were persuaded to sign up after they learned they’d be able to afford preventive care and no longer had to put off seeing a doctor until health problems became emergencies.

Taylor’s firm enrolled several hundred people but had to turn away even more. These people earned too much to qualify for Kansas Medicaid but too little to receive a federal subsidy for a marketplace plan.

Taylor cited a widely used estimate that expanding Medicaid would bring coverage to 135,000 Kansans. “Uninsured rates are going to drop only when Medicaid and the ACA are fully implemented,” he said.

ACA enrollment for 2015 starts Nov. 15. Taylor plans to be back in the field.

To reach Alan Bavley, call 816-234-4858 or send email to abavley@kcstar.com.

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