In Portsmouth, ACA primer fails to draw much interestBy GRETYL MACALASTER
Union Leader Correspondent
December 10. 2013 1:07AM
PORTSMOUTH — Certified health insurance marketplace navigators with Families First were at the public library on Monday evening to help people with understanding the Affordable Care Act and enrolling in plans, but few people took advantage of the opportunity.
Only about seven people came through during the hour and a half long session, which marketplace navigator Marcy Curtis said was actually a good turnout.
Overall, interest has been low in the sessions, no matter how much outreach they do, Curtis said.
Another session will be held at the Portsmouth Public Library on Monday, Dec. 16, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline to enroll in order to receive benefits starting Jan. 1.
Curtis said people now without health insurance do not seem concerned about having insurance on Jan. 1, and may be waiting until closer to the enrollment period deadline of March 31, or risk paying a penalty.
Curtis started in her position in October after Families First and other agencies around the state and nation received grant funding for such positions.
“It is a huge new law so people need to understand what the law is and people who haven’t had insurance before need to know how that works,” Curtis said.
Her position is mobile, so she is able to meet people out in the community and provide outreach and education forums like the one at the library, while other navigators are focused on in-house applications with current Families First clients, and another focuses more specifically on helping people with applications.
Last Wednesday, Curtis held a longer forum, which included a presentation about the Affordable Care Act, and two people attended, one of whom included a local newspaper reporter.
Curtis said most questions she receives pertain to the actual insurance plans being offered by Anthem, the only insurance carrier available through the New Hampshire Health Insurance Exchange and how to choose one.
She said many people also do not understand how the subsidies work and are afraid they will not be able to afford the insurance, but Curtis said the list of exemptions is long.
“Some people who still won’t be able to afford the marketplace are going to be exempt from the marketplace,” Curtis said.
About half of the 30 or so people who have come through all of the Seacoast ACA forums offered through Families First so far have previously attempted to navigate the website themselves, and the other half have stayed away from it because they heard so much about log on problems.
The initial frustration with the website has gone away, she said, and she was able to go through it seamlessly last week for the first time.
Curtis said there are navigators across the state available to help residents understand and take advantage of the new health care law.
Information about educational and enrollment assistance for the New Hampshire Health Insurance Marketplace in different areas of the state is available through the Bi-State Primary Care Association website, www.bistatepca.org under “NH Outreach-Enrollment.”