By Kent Ferris
Oct. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014, is the enrollment period under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as PPACA or “Obama care”) for people who do not have health insurance. Due to a lack of understanding about eligibility, costs and other factors, the Iowa Insurance Division has announced that it will hold local meetings, using community partners, to explain provisions of the Affordable Care Act and how it will help families and individuals who presently lack health insurance.
The scheduled meetings are very important to many people in the Diocese of Davenport. An estimated 250,000 lower-income Iowa residents will be eligible for health care coverage through the Medicaid expansion. First-time coverage will be available for many, and pre-existing conditions are no longer an exclusion from coverage. The meetings are important as experts estimate less than half of the people who are eligible will enroll for lack of understanding.
We have previously encouraged families to enroll their eligible children in the hawk-i program. Now we encourage those with incomes up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to learn about and, in turn, sign up for coverage via the Iowa Wellness Plan, the Marketplace Choice Plan or the Iowa Exchange.
For many, many years, the Catholic bishops’ conference strongly supported expanding access to health care in ways that respect life, dignity, health and consciences for all. Even though the bishops’ conference is fighting against the infringements on religious liberty and particular points in a list of mandated health benefits (insurance coverage for contraceptives and sterilization) that is one small part of the Affordable Care Act. The bishops do not wish the Affordable Care Act to be repealed or limited in funding. They believe that affordable health care, particularly for those most in need, is a public good and a moral imperative.
We urge everyone to take advantage of these meetings as they are held throughout the diocese to learn the facts, and for those who presently lack insurance to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, we ask leaders in local parishes to publicize or host local meetings of Medicaid Expansion educators for the benefit of fellow parishioners and the greater community.
The Catholic Messenger will keep you posted as the meeting dates and locations become available.
(Kent Ferris is director of social action and of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Davenport.)