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Viewpoint

It’s a bumpy road that’s worth taking

The Affordable Care Act. For several years we have heard that affordable healthcare was coming. What would it look like? Who will benefit from it? How will we access it? Some say it’s an awful idea. Others say it is wonderful.

My opinion is that we moving in the right direction. As a nation we have to do something about affordable health care. Health insurance premiums are expensive, even for catastrophic coverage. Many businesses cannot afford to offer even partial premium coverage for their employees. Small employers and the self-employed struggle to justify the expense of health insurance. Many opt to go uncovered. If they decide to purchase health insurance, it is not unusual for premiums to jump as much as 30 percent in one year making continued coverage a real question.

The Affordable Care Act is a step toward making good healthcare available to everyone. We have already seen the first steps of this Act in the Medicare Part D program and the ability to keep our young adult children on our insurance plans up to age 26. Many have taken advantage of these options already.

Now we come to the health insurance portion of the ACA. On Oct. 1 the marketplace opened for enrollment. In the past couple of months I have attended state and local meetings discussing how this new healthcare plan will roll out. Is the system perfect? No. Are we experiencing some hiccups? Yes. Let me give you the highlights of what I have learned.

First, for those of us who are panicking that we will miss something if we don’t sign up right away, please take a deep breath. Oct. 1 is the first day you can go on the system and sign up for coverage. The coverage will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2014, at the earliest. You have some time here. You don’t have to worry that you have missed your one opportunity. Enrollment dates are Oct. 1 to March 31, 2014.

You have heard that Anthem is the only company offering plans in New Hampshire. Correct. There need to be more insurance companies offering us choices in this state. It is my hope that in 2015 we will have more choices. Let’s get a little competition going here. And, let’s get choices that allow us to go to Monadnock Community Hospital if we so choose.

Here is how to enroll: Go to HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596. You can enroll yourself by following the prompts at HealthCare.gov. Local help centers are still being determined, but right now you can contact Cheshire Medical Center for application assistance. Women in childbearing age can also contact Planned Parenthood, the agency that has received federal funding as regional Navigators for this program. They plan to have someone in their Keene office 15 hours per week. Monadnock ServiceLink was just notified on Oct. 2 that their statewide network has also received funding to assist the public with applications and that will bring help to the Monadnock region. Other organizations have applied to provide assistance and are waiting official approval. Stay tuned for more information on these local help centers. If you have a trusted insurance agent who has been certified for this program, ask them how they can help you with enrollment.

There are other organizations that have stepped up as Champions of the program. AARP is one of those organizations. They have trained 50 presenters statewide to offer informational sessions at local libraries and other locations. Honey Hastings gave a presentation at the Peterborough Library on Saturday. Their volunteers are ready and willing to do additional sessions as requested. (We are hoping to host them at The River Center soon.)

Will the Affordable Care Act help us? Yes. Many uninsured and underinsured will have access to good coverage. Will we grumble and sputter along the way? Yes. Change is always hard, but not necessarily bad. This change is good, in my opinion.

Margaret Nelson is the executive director of The River Center in Peterborough.

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