Last Monday evening, as political gridlock over the Affordable Care Act was grinding the federal government to a halt, I was at a “town hall” meeting sponsored by the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, sitting with a crowd of people who just wanted help understanding how the law is supposed to work.
As politicians in the nation’s capital competed for camera time to denounce each other for shutting down the government over the law known as Obamacare, the people I sat among politely asked for help navigating their way through the online health insurance exchange that was set to go live the next morning.
Helping them get what they needed was Rep. Ed Clere, a New Albany Republican who chairs the House Public Health Committee and has been touring the state, attending the Coalition’s town halls.
He’s taken a pragmatic approach to the ACA, trying to figure out what it means for the 800,000 Hoosiers who are uninsured. As he told the crowd: “Whether we like it or not, the Affordable Care Act is the law.”
Among those in the audience was a young man enrolled in a master’s program in public health, which he’s financed with student loans on the belief that more education will help him build a better life. His dilemma: At 27, he’s too old to be covered by a parent’s health insurance plan (which Obamacare extended to age 26) but worries he has no extra money in his tight budget to afford even a basic, no-frills health insurance plan offered under the new health insurance marketplace.
It was little comfort to him to find out that he won’t be penalized under the ACA if he doesn’t buy health insurance, because his income is so low. It was even smaller comfort to him to find out that he likely would have qualified for the Medicaid insurance program had Gov. Mike Pence opted to expand the Medicaid program in Indiana and take federal dollars provided by the ACA to pay for it.