Event provides support for healthcare application


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Computers in the Iowa City Public Library sat prepped and ready, displaying a banner reading “Healthcare.gov” at the top of the screens. But even an hour into the event, the chairs sat empty.

Community members had the chance to have any and all questions answered about applying for marketplace health insurance under the Affordable Care Act during an event hosted by Planned Parenthood on Wednesday.

Shanette White, a navigator with Planned Parenthood, said at events such as this one, officials hope to have a turnout of elderly people, foreigners, and students — the demographics that have yet to register.

“[It’s important] for students to find out if they are covered in their parents’ insurance … because the law does affect them, too,” she said.

However, Planned Parenthood navigator Tristin Johnson said students are not the largest demographic to take an interest in applying for health insurance.

“Part of the Affordable Care Act was to make it so people can be on their parents insurance until they’re 26, so a lot of college students don’t need to worry about it right now,” she said. “But we have been trying to reach out to them because 26 comes faster than you think.”

Peter Damiano, the director of the University of Iowa Public Policy Center, said most college students won’t apply because they benefit from staying on their parents’ plan.

“In general, they’re still trying to get more younger people to apply,” he said. “The [idea] is that not just sick people buy it, [but] it’s a struggle to get the information out there.”

Officials at the event said they were not surprised by the lack of turnout, citing weather, lack of communication, and lack of knowledge as drawbacks.

“I think a lot of people are waiting to see what this means, especially if there is no urgency,” Damiano said.

Johnson said Planned Parenthood expect to see a larger turnout when the deadline for application in March draws nearer. The organization is planning to host more events throughout the state until the health-care deadline.

“There’s going to be a huge influx of people in March … nobody has had to pay a fine yet, and [some people are hoping] it will still be repealed,” Johnson said.

“There are a lot of students that aren’t on their parents insurance, because after they turn 18, they have been taken off, and it’s [too] expensive to be put back on,” she said.

White said it is important for students, and other members of the community, to be aware of their options, including learning information on comparing plans or learning the enrollment process.

“I encourage students [to apply] because it’s also a life lesson,” she said. “At that young age, you have to teach younger adults to be adults [because] they don’t understand premiums against deductibles.”

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said a key component of the act is to make sure younger people are signed up and covered by insurers as well.

“Generally, younger people have better health and have less need for health insurance, but it does happen, and then it takes money from the general public [and] the taxpayers end up covering costs,” he said. “It’s never too early for someone to be covered under health insurance plans.”

Jacoby said he thinks the majority of people who are applying are between the ages of 35 to 55 because young people do not see it as an immediate necessity.

“It’s planning for the future, but it’s also making sure there’s not a gap in coverage when you leave college … and get into the world of work,” he said. “The chief component is that you never know what may happen to you.”

Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, said although he thinks predominately students will remain on their parents’ plans for as long as possible, he does not encourage nor discourage students from applying for health insurance.

“I think it’s an individual decision,” he said. “If you need health insurance, I think you should definitely sign up, but if you’re under the age of 26, and you’re on your parents’ plan, you don’t need to.”

While Chelgren and Jacoby differed on whether students should register, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 24 percent of the new registrants were between the ages of 18-34.

And in Iowa City, the chairs sat empty.

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