Expert to address health care reform changes

To help island individuals and small business owners navigate coming changes stemming from national health care reform, the Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring an informational meeting about insurance coverage next week.

Starting this fall, individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase health benefit plans from a new marketplace intended to make health insurance accessible to more people. To address these changes, the chamber has invited Scott Hacker, a representative from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and an expert in the pending transition, to provide information to islanders.

Insurance agent LeeAnn Brown, who is co-hosting the event and has been staying abreast of the coming changes, said she believes the meeting will provide information that will be valuable to many.

“I think everyone in the community needs to know what to do about this,” she said.

Like others across the country, islanders who purchase health insurance on their own instead of through their workplace will receive a letter this September, instructing them to pick a new plan through the new marketplace or they will be assigned a plan, Brown said. Attending next week’s meeting will help people know more about their options in advance of the open enrollment period, which will begin in October and last until Dec. 7. Coverage with news plans  will begin in January of 2014, she said.

As part of health care reform, people with low and moderate incomes will be eligible for government subsidies to help them pay for insurance. For example, Brown said, a family of four who earns less than $90,000 will be eligible for a government subsidy. Information on subsidies will be available at the meeting, she noted, though specifics about health plan details and costs will not be ready yet.

Brown noted that confusion about health care reform, sometimes known as Obamacare, runs high. Though the sweeping legislation was passed in 2010 and some changes have been implemented, including  coverage until an adult child reaches age 26, many people do not understand much about the reforms. In fact, she said, she read recently that 42 percent of Americans believe that the Affordable Care Act — the name of the health care legislation — was repealed.

At the Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director Jim Marsh said he is pleased to offer the event because providing health insurance is a large issue of concern for many business owners. And as the insurance marketplace changes get closer, the Chamber may host more informational events.

“Good information is helpful,” he said. “If it’s really useful, we’ll do more if we can.”

The meeting will be from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 25, at the Penny Farcy Training Center. RSVPs are preferred to

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