Clint Smith took pride in his ability to wrestle even the most complicated heating or air-conditioning problem into purring functionality.
But Smith, 81, a retired HVAC specialist from Thornton, was reluctant to tackle the hundreds of pages of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides new health screening services for free and reduces the Medicare “doughnut hole” coverage gap.
It’s a common reflex that AARP Colorado is trying to address. So it is sending staff members and volunteers to senior and community centers, health fairs and gatherings of retirees.
They offer guidance in understanding and using the health care law through two online tools that allow people to receive advice about their choices.
“It’s helpful to be able to get everything off the computer,” Smith said after attending an ACA education session in January conducted at The Center in Denver.
“My late wife always took care of the health care matters,” Smith said. “I’ve been interested in finding out the best way to get the best information.”
Online health tools
The online Health Law Guide takes your personal information and generates a report about how the law works with your current coverage. It also indicates what other insurance coverage might be worth considering.
The other online tool deals with the Medicare Part D drug-coverage “doughnut hole,” the gap that arises at a certain level of spending on prescriptions. Once you enter the name of your plan and your prescriptions, the tool will chart whether you are likely to hit the coverage gap. It then offers a list of similar alternative drugs that could reduce the cost.
Each tool takes only minutes to complete. Both tools can also be found on the AARP Colorado website.
Information about the ACA is also available at healthcare.gov.
The session Smith attended was the first of dozens expected to be held around the state this year to walk Coloradans through the tools.
“We want to let everyone know these tools exist, and we want to help them understand how the ACA serves them,” said Angela Cortez, AARP Colorado communications director.
“With the overwhelming amount of information on the Internet, many people overlook” the tools, said Linda Guss, an AmeriCorps member who is working with AARP Colorado.
She noted that “some people are very comfortable doing things on the Internet, and others need a little help.”
Sessions at 9Health Fairs
Guss and AARP Colorado staff and volunteers are conducting at least two free hands-on instructional sessions weekly through September for Medicare beneficiaries, their caregivers and professionals who work with them.
Among the sessions in April are several 9Health Fairs, sponsored by Denver’s 9News KUSA-TV in nearly 150 locations in central and southeastern Colorado.
The education effort is focusing on groups composed of either older people or those in contact with them, such as retirement facilities and religious organizations.
To schedule an information session, groups should contact Guss at 303-318-6764 or email@example.com. For a schedule of ACA presentations, call 866-554-5376 toll-free or look at “upcoming events” at the AARP Colorado website.
Because of the ACA’s complexity and sheer volume, “it’s easy for anyone to have knowledge gaps about it,” Guss said.
Cecil Bethea, 84, a retired men’s suit salesman who attended an ACA information session in Denver, said: “It’s a very big subject. Every fact I learn helps my situation.”
—By Sharon Peters