County prepares for Affordable Care Act changes
Eagle County Health and Human Services is making changes according to the national Affordable Care Act that starts to kick in Oct. 1.
Some of those changes were discussed in a meeting with Eagle County Commissioners last week.
“The greatest change is the number of adults without dependent children who will qualify if they are below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is an income of $1,275 a month for a single person,” said Kristie Williamson, an economic services manager for Eagle County HHS. “It’s estimated that 1,760 adults in Eagle County will be newly eligible for Medicaid.”
Benefits from the reformed program won’t start until Jan. 1 but people may start applying for them Oct. 1.
“Right now the qualifications for the programs are kind of all different,” Williamson said. “(The Affordable Care Act) is making it more uniform across the board. I think it’s going to open some doors for families that have been in the gap (of being in need but not qualifying for benefits0. Hopefully over time we’ll have a healthier community.”
There are currently 1,158 Medicaid cases in Eagle County. Each case may contain multiple people and sometimes separate cases are in the same household.
“In that scenario, the new Medicaid system will collapse previously separate cases into one,” Williamson said, adding that there could be some exceptions.
The application for benefits is being streamlined and people won’t need to fill out as much paper work as they do now. There is a “no wrong door” concept intended to make it easier for people to learn if they qualify for benefits.
“The state is helping us prepare for the influx of new cases and we are gearing up a public information campaign,” said Eagle County Economic Services Director Kathy Lyons.
That campaign includes the PEAK system that is currently available for anyone with Internet access and at kiosks with computers that have been set up throughout the county (see info box).
In the meantime, a lot of questions about the Affordable Care Act still remain.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Williamson said. “The original system-change date was Sept. 22 and now it’s been pushed back to Sept. 29, though the Oct. 1 date for people to start applying has remained the same.”
She said with any system change, some initial glitches have to be expected.
“We have a work plan to get at as much work completed before we go to the new system because there will be times when we have to deal with some unexpected problems,” she said. “Hopefully any impacts to people will be kept to a minimum.”