FLORENCE — A part of the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act will create a health insurance exchange market with insurance policies that will provide coverage options to families in several key areas including maternity and newborn care.
The health insurance exchange, a key component to the massive health care reform legislation, allows citizens to select an insurance policy from a pool of providers.
Those policies can provide as much or as little coverage as needed or as is affordable, but all policies must include allowances for some medical areas including maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, laboratory services, preventative and wellness service, hospitalization and pediatric coverage, according to an activist for low-income Alabamians.
Dollie Hambrick, health care reform organizer for Arise Alabama, an advocacy group for low income Alabamians that lobbies for legislation, spoke to a room full of individuals at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library on Monday during a forum on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. She discussed the benefits of the legislation, particularly for low to middle income Alabamians.
Hambrick told the group the health care exchange takes the guessing and secrets out of purchasing health insurance by providing options for insurance plans the consumer can understand.
“It will allow you to buy insurance you can trust, can understand and you know will cover a certain number of categories,” Hambrick said.
Health insurance exchanges, both federal and state versions, will be in place beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
While Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has elected at this time to not proceed with the creation of an Alabama insurance exchange, Alabamians will still have access to insurance policies in the federal exchange.
However, Hambrick said, by not having a state-sponsored exchange, Alabama doesn’t have an advocate in the process.
“In families, we understand how things work within our family,” Hambrick said. “By opting out of the state exchange, (Alabama isn’t) there at the table.”
Bentley also has chosen to not participate in the expanded Medicaid coverage plan that is part of the Affordable Care Act.
A health insurance exchange collects policies approved and regulated by the exchange’s management structure before being offered to consumers. Those policies are offered in four tiers of coverage.
A similar exchange will be set up for small businesses interested in purchasing employee coverage through the insurance marketplace.
Stan Johnson, the Alabama Arise organizer for north Alabama, said insurance providers participating in the exchange will be many of the same providers that are currently operating.
“It is going to be more competitive,” Johnson said of the exchange set-up.
Hambrick said families that choose to participate will receive a tax credit, equal to 2 to 9.5 percent of their income, to assist with the cost of purchasing health insurance. These families have incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty level, she said.
The over-arching hope of the Affordable Care Act is to increase the accessibility of coverage for all income brackets. Hambrick said the insurance exchanges will accomplish that by giving individuals and families the power to be in charge of their own health care benefits.
“We have a whole lot of people that can only get insurance if they have a full-time job that offers benefits,” Hambrick said. “This will do a lot to eliminate that group.”
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.