Future counselors sift through concerns of Affordable Care Act

A handful of members from FACT and CORA came together for an informational meeting in Hannibal.

Millions of Americans have already signed onto the Affordable Care Act, but far more people still don't understand how it affects them.

Over the next couple of months, health officials across the country will hold public seminars to educate citizens and business owners. Members with Families and Communities Together (F.A.C.T.) had hoped to fill a conference room at the Hannibal Nutrition Center Wednesday, but only a handful of Missouri residents came with hands raised regarding the ACA, known to many as Obamacare.

"Most of the people really don't know what to do and until it took effect Oct. 1, the rules kept changing," Stephanie Thomeczek, the CEO of F.A.C.T. said.

Thomeczek says far too many people still don't understand how the new law affects them.

"If there's really anything I've heard, it's, 'I don't want Obamacare.' Well, it's not Obamacare that we are in any way able to talk about. We're here to talk about a law that has taken effect in America called, the Affordable Care Act and whether you voted for or against it, it is a law and a resource available to our Missouri constituents," Thomeczek said.

To cut through any confusion, the state provided funding for local agencies to become application counselors, to guide people in their search for the best healthcare on the Marketplace.

"We are looking for agencies that want to partner, perhaps office space in the rural counties around us where we can set up a station and help people link up through the internet and apply," Thomeczek said.

These counselors must be certified through the federal government. As of last month, more than 5,000 people signed on to become an application counselors, but fewer than 1,000 are approved.

"This information needs to get out to the general public and I wish it was more individualized, but I'll go through the materials that were handed to me," Donna Hemme said.

Hemme is a billings specialist with Vocational Rehabilitation in Hannibal. It's a state agency that works with residents who have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from holding jobs.

"Most of the people we work with don't have insurance, so this might be a good option for them," Hemme said.

Hemme says many of her clients also don't have access to the internet which can complicate things. She hopes enrollment is easier once more counselors are approved in Northeast Missouri.

Office hours will be posted for the general public once agencies in Northeast Missouri are fully certified to become application counselors. Area residents looking for assistance will then be able to utilize that time to enroll into their selected healthcare plan.