Donelon: Information critical for Affordable Care Act decisions

Federal, state agencies offer guidance on options under law

Jim Donelon
Jim Donelon

The Affordable Care Act is so complicated — including the health insurance marketplaces where uninsured consumers can buy coverage beginning Oct. 1 — that confusion will likely reign for the near future, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said Monday.

“There is no way that people have enough information to make a good decision,” Donelon said during a Baton Rouge Press Club meeting.

The regulations are difficult for tax attorneys and certified public accountants, much less for the average consumer.

An estimated 800,000 Louisiana residents now lack health insurance, and it’s unclear how many of the uninsured will gain coverage through the federally operated marketplace, Donelon said. Subsidies will be available for people whose income ranges from 100 percent to 400 percent of poverty level. The maximum income for an individual to be eligible for a subsidy is $46,000. For a family of four, the maximum is $94,200.

Four insurance plans are offering products through the marketplace: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana; Louisiana Health Cooperative, a nonprofit group ; Vantage Health Plan Inc., a doctor-owned plan based in Monroe; and Humana, which will offer coverage only in Jefferson Parish. Blue Cross will offer coverage in every parish. The Health Cooperative is in the process of building a statewide network. Vantage has extensive coverage but is not yet in every parish.

Donelon said the marketplaces, and the Affordable Care Act, are not a perfect solution.

There will still be Louisiana residents who don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and who won’t have enough money to buy the coverage offered through the exchange, he said. The cost of health insurance could increase by 30 percent to 40 percent, in part because insurance companies won’t be able to charge more to cover people with specific health problems as they had in the past.

On the plus side, consumers will be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons of insurance policies.

The federal government has set the most popular product of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana as the “essential health benefit plan” for the Louisiana marketplace, Donelon said. So whatever benefits that product includes, such as coverage for maternity care and mental illness and deductibles, will also be included in the marketplace’s other offerings.

For more information on the Health Insurance Marketplace, go online to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at www.healthcare.gov.

Donelon said the state Department of Insurance will be providing information on its website, www.ldi.la.gov and by phone at (800) 259-5300.

In addition, the department will be attending various meetings and events across the state in which questions about the Affordable Care Act can be addressed. The dates and locations around south Louisiana are:

BATON ROUGE: 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesday; Ochsner Medical Center, 17000 Medical Center Drive.

SLIDELL: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday; North Shore Harbor Center, 100 Harbor Center Blvd.

BATON ROUGE: 1-2 p.m. Wednesday; Sterling Place Nursing and Rehab, 3888 North Blvd.

LAFAYETTE: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday; Lafayette Public Library, 6101 Johnston St.

HOUMA: LANA Conference; 8-8:30 a.m. Thursday; Quality Hotel, 210 S. Hollywood Road.

JEFFERSON: Medicare Update 2014; 10 a.m.-noon Thursday; Ochsner Main Campus - Brent House, 1514 Jefferson Highway.

DENHAM SPRINGS: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday; First Baptist Church of Denham Springs, 308 N. River Road.

COVINGTON: 10-11:30 a.m. Friday; Ochsner Health Center - 2nd Floor Training Room,

1000 Ochsner Blvd.

LAKE CHARLES:10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday; 2016 Oak Park Blvd.

SLIDELL: 9:30-11:30 a.m. Sept. 30; Ochsner Health Center - Camilla Room, 105 Medical Center Drive.

COVINGTON: 6- 8 p.m. Oct. 2; Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans, 69090 E. Highway 190 Service Road.

LAKE CHARLES: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 4; 2016 Oak Park Blvd.

BATON ROUGE: 8 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Oct. 5; Renaissance Hotel, 7000 Bluebonnet Blvd.

LAFAYETTE: 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 5; Lafayette Athletic Association for the Deaf, 200 Rue De Belier.

GONZALES: 9-11 a.m. Oct. 9; St. Elizabeth Hospital - St. Linda Room, 1125 West Hwy. 30.

LOCKPORT: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 22; Lockport Volunteer Fire Station, 810 Crescent Ave.

GONZALES: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 24; Lamar Dixon Expo Center, 9039 S. St. Landry Ave.

GONZALES: 9:30-11:30 a.m. Oct. 24; St. Elizabeth Hospital - St. Linda Room,

1125 West Hwy. 30.

BATON ROUGE: Louisiana Health Care Commission; 9 a.m. Oct. 25; Plaza Hearing Room, Poydras Building, 1702 N. Third St.

LAFAYETTE: 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 31; South Regional Library, 6101 Johnston St.

BATON ROUGE: noon-5 p.m. Nov. 9; BREC Howell Community Park, 5509 Winbourne Ave.