KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than 20 million U.S. citizens rely on the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, for medical insurance coverage.
Elizabeth Mardis is a customer service representative for the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. She and a coworker fielded a lot of calls Tuesday about the Affordable Care Act.
"If you don't know the kind of questions, some questions can be a little tricky," Mardis said.
The biggest question right now is whether plans from the health insurance marketplace will exist next year given the legal challenge by some states.
"I told them that they just need to get the insurance and at least have it," Mardis said. "I don't think it will go away next year in 2021. If they were going to get rid of it, they would get rid of it. ... If it goes away in 2022, then they would lose it in 2021 at the end of the year."
It's not just people in Johnson County reaching out with questions. Swope Health also is answering questions for those who may be confused.
"We have the time to really walk you through all the intricacies of that process, all the different carriers, talk about the cost analysis and how it will impact your budget," Swope Health CEO Jeron Ravin said, "because people want to know how will this impact my kitchen table and will I be able to put food on the kitchen table."
The usual challenges with the process remain as well.
Health and insurance experts said the income-reporting box gives people the most trouble, so it's important to have your tax documents ready and payroll information handy during the application process.
"When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, it's figuring out if someone is getting tips or how they are being paid or if they are self-employed," Mardis said.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered an unprecedented wave of unemployment, also can make applying difficult.
"It's changed so much, and it's so hard to them to narrow down how much they will make for 2021," Mardis said.
Despite the challenges and the changes, signing up for insurance is important for those without coverage through work or some other avenue.
"You should sign up for the Affordable Care Act," Mardis said. "I think it's incumbent upon you to really protect yourself and your family by making sure you are insured."
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has ACA representatives available to answer questions on Tuesdays by calling 913-715-5000. Additional help is available online through CoverKC.