How Obamacare is working for three East Tennessee women

How Obamacare is working for three East Tennessee women

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Retired operator Paula Patterson has always gotten her medical care through Knoxville Area Project Access, called KAPA, a group that coordinates donated services to the low-income uninsured. Retired operator Paula Patterson has always gotten her medical care through Knoxville Area Project Access, called KAPA, a group that coordinates donated services to the low-income uninsured.
Self-employed veterinarian Rhea Morgan has always gotten her insurance through the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA stopped offering health insurance this year, so she went to the online marketplace. Self-employed veterinarian Rhea Morgan has always gotten her insurance through the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA stopped offering health insurance this year, so she went to the online marketplace.
Obamacare wasn't the right choice for everyone, including Sheila Whaley. Obamacare wasn't the right choice for everyone, including Sheila Whaley.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - We're more than a month into the Obamacare era, and after a rough start with website malfunctions, some are now are beginning to use their new health insurance.     

We talked to three East Tennesseans, all with different circumstances and different reasons for turning to the Affordable Care Act, about their own personal experiences so far.    

Retired operator Paula Patterson has always gotten her medical care through Knoxville Area Project Access, called KAPA, a group that coordinates donated services to the low-income uninsured. But she found out last fall that if she was eligible to buy health insurance in the new federal marketplace, she would have to sign up there. 

KAPA helped her go online, choose a plan, and find out what tax credits she was eligible for. The plan she chose costs $415 a month, but because she can't get insurance anywhere else and her income is low enough, the federal government is paying $410 of that.

"It came to $5.02 a month for my health insurance," Patterson said.

She has already reaped the benefits of her new policy with some of her prescriptions.

"I'm having gallbladder trouble and the medicine was almost $60 a month and that medicine is like $12.59 cents a month now," she said.

However, she's reserving judgement on the plan as a whole. 

"How about if I say I don't know yet because I haven't been to my first doctor's visit?" Patterson said.

Self-employed veterinarian Rhea Morgan has always gotten her insurance through the American Veterinary Medical Association.

"It was extremely expensive," she said. "It was $1331 per month."

It was her only option.

"Since I have some preexisting conditions it was necessary for me to go into a group plan in order to have those covered," Dr. Morgan said.

The AVMA stopped offering health insurance this year, so she went to the online marketplace.

"There were 67 policies for me to look at," she said.

She learned that her income level meant she wasn't eligible for a tax credit, and she didn't see the type of plan she really needed.

"I have some doctors that are out of state. I also travel a lot and wanted coverage that was broader than just the local PPOs for East Tennessee," Dr. Morgan said.

So, she turned to an independent insurance agent, and because under the Affordable Care Act all insurance companies now have to accept preexisting conditions, she found a nationwide plan she could buy.

"All of my physicians everywhere are on it," she said.

She's also saving $800 dollars a month over her previous policy.

"It's been a life-saver for me," Dr. Morgan said.

Obamacare wasn't the right choice for everyone, including Sheila Whaley. Her part-time job had always offered health insurance, until this year. She looked at plans on the marketplace, but since her income meant she wasn't eligible for a tax credit, she didn't think the coverage measured up to the price she'd have to pay.

"It was a watered down policy," Whaley said. "It didn't cover as much as my coverage does now."

Luckily she had another option, COBRA. It's an 18-month extension of the insurance plan she's been on. The only change is that she now has to pay the full premium each month herself without her employer supplementing.

"It's more expensive, yes," she said. "$694 a month."

That's about $100 more per month than the plans she found on the marketplace website. The extra money is worth it to her to stick with a plan she knows offers good coverage, but it's certainly not ideal.

"It's not nice. It hurts," Whaley said.

You can enroll in the Affordable Care Act for this year through March 15.

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