Another Town Hall meeting on health insurance today

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 5.58.19 AMBlue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas is holding town hall meetings in five cities across the state to talk about the federal health insurance marketplace. They will meet  in Hays at Fort Hays State University Memorial Union at 6:30 this evening.

The 90-minute meetings will feature an introductory presentation to answer the most common questions about the Affordable Care Act, often referred to Obamacare.

BCBS of Kansas is one of three companies in Kansas selling health insurance plans on the new insurance marketplace — The other companies are Coventry Health Care of Kansas and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, which offers coverage only to residents in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

As many as 200,000 Kansans – including many who currently are uninsured – are expected to purchase coverage through the new marketplace. Many of them will qualify for federal tax credits that consumers can use to directly offset the cost of their premiums.

Blue Cross of Kansas has already held seven town-hall meetings and people have been pleasantly surprised at the size of the tax credits, said Blue Cross spokeswoman Mary Beth Chambers.

“I think people understood that there were going to be tax credits available, but didn’t really understand just how much per month families might be eligible for,” Chambers said. “I think seeing (this information) has opened people’s eyes a little bit.

She said the example used in the opening presentation is for a family of four with household income of $50,000 a year. The family is eligible for $550 each month in tax credits to purchase insurance on the marketplace.

The credits are available on a sliding scale.

A tax credit calculator for all family sizes and incomes is available at

Kansas, however, is one of the states where political leaders have chosen against expanding the state’s Medicaid program, which means those with incomes below 100 percent of federal poverty guidelines won’t be eligible for subsidized coverage. The Affordable Care Act was written assuming most states would expand Medicaid, so the tax credits are available only for those who lack affordable employer coverage and earn between 100 percent and 400 percent of poverty guidelines.

Chambers said the other recurring theme at the meetings is having to dispel misinformation about how seniors are affected by the law. The short answer is that if they are covered by Medicare, they are not affected at all, she said.

Nonetheless, the misconception seems deeply ingrained.

“At some meetings, we’ve had to answer that same question four of five times,” she said.—KHI News