The Ottumwa Courier

November 19, 2013

State speaks on health insurance

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The Republican U.S. Senator from Iowa and the Democratic U.S. Senator disagree on whether Obamacare is good or bad. But state employees say they won't be talking politics in Ottumwa; they're coming to help area residents find insurance.

"We are not for or against it. It is a federal law, and we have to implement it," said Becky Blum, a project manager with the Iowa Insurance Division. "We don't put a 'position' out there."

In a recent statement, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley criticized the Affordable Care Act, and said he's received letters from Iowans complaining about what a "disaster" the program is. He wants a bipartisan effort to come up with something that works. However, when the Courier contacted his Democratic colleague, Sen. Tom Harkin for a response, Harkin wrote back to say he's been contacted by a lot of people who really like the current plan.

On Thursday, it will be the Iowa Insurance Division coming to educate residents in and around Wapello County. IID is the state regulatory division that oversees the licensing of insurance companies, agents and brokers in the state of Iowa.

"The goal for these meetings has been to provide education about the ACA (affordable care act), we've visited 21 cities over the last month. It's basically giving people an overview of the marketplace: What does it mean for Iowans? Where people can go to seek more information? To enroll?"

And nearly every community in Iowa has a way to get help with Obamacare, Blum said.

"The navigators are people who received federal grants to help people navigate the system," she said. "They don't pick a plan, but they can guide them through the whole process."

At the meeting on Thursday, IID representatives won't pick a plan for attendees or sit down and get them signed up. But they can teach residents how to get through the sometimes confusing process.

"Additionally, the Department of Human Services will be there discussing the new Iowa Health and Wellness, which is the Medicaid expansion plan," Blum said. "This doesn't affect anybody Medicare or Medicaid eligible. You are already taken care of."

The meeting will be from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, though the meetings sometimes run longer than that as audience members call out questions for the state experts. It will be held at the Indian Hills Community College Advanced Tech Center, room 123.

— To follow reporter Mark Newman on Twitter, see @CourierMark