Renee Green stays home with her 7-year-old disabled son, Adam, who has seizures throughout the day and cannot communicate or eat. She recently quit her job in human resources to care for Adam full time using coverage obtained through the Affordable Care Act.
She re-enrolled again this year, but she has mixed feelings about it.
“Last year I had some medical issues going on, and I chose not to get an MRI because it was not covered because of our high deductible,” she said.
Tuesday, January 31st is the deadline to enroll in the state’s health exchange for 2017. There’s no agreed upon Affordable Care Act replacement in Washington, as federal lawmakers continue to tussle over its end.
Yet Arkansans face a penalty if they do not meet the enrollment deadline and have no health insurance. About 78,000 state residents were fined for failing to enroll in 2014, according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. Though it remains to be seen whether the ACA will be repealed before any fines will be levied, many Arkansans are grappling with their own confusion and ambivalence about the future of the program.
Green says she appreciates the subsidies from the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid help for her son, but she is also a Republican, and believes there are too many government “big brother” programs.
She thinks private market insurance will be more flexible with lower costs.
“Once Obamacare is wiped away, you can customize your policy a little bit more and it should help the premiums come down,” said Green.
She says she doesn’t follow state politics and isn’t familiar with Arkansas’ version of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded coverage to more than 350,000 low-income residents, mostly through federal funding.
In the afternoons, Green watches her son’s 7-year-old classmate, Erick, who has Cerebral Palsy, while his mother Denetta Bass studies for nursing school. Bass is a Democrat and says her first concern is that her family has healthcare, whatever it may be.
“It would be horrible for people to lose coverage, but they have to replace it with something," she said.
"I’m very confident that they’ll replace it if they do take it away, so that’s not really a big concern for me."
Bass is planning to apply, last minute, for the healthcare exchange before the midnight deadline. She says she isn’t sure what she will qualify for. She is a student, and a single mom with three kids. She says that in the past she’s been on Medicaid, but last year she was unable to get coverage after trying to verify her income to the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has said he supports block grants to continue many of the services currently provided by Arkansas’ version of the federal healthcare program.