Obamacare Arrives In Nashville To Cheers, Confusion

Federally-trained Certified Application Counselors and Obamacare Navigators helped uninsured Nashvillians sign up for coverage on Monday. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Federally-trained Certified Application Counselors and Obamacare Navigators helped uninsured Nashvillians sign up for coverage on Monday. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Nashville’s first sign-up event for the Obamacare health insurance Marketplace started with cheers and prayers of thanksgiving. But the praise was tempered by computer glitches and confusion.

A dozen certified application counselors set up at folding tables in the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church fellowship hall.

“I’m just confused right now,” said Ronza Williams, who dropped in to see what kind of insurance rate she might be eligible for.

Currently, 100,000 residents of Davidson County are uninsured. An estimated 78,000 should qualify for insurance on the new Marketplace, according to Obamacare advocacy group Get Covered Tennessee.

Williams is a 51-year-old, uninsured diabetic who had open-heart surgery five years ago.  Her pre-existing conditions won’t matter under the new law, but she does smoke, which will cost her.

She was quoted a price of $157 a month – an amount she says won’t fit into her budget, making $10,000 a year.

“I’m going out, uninsured,” Williams said. “I am a smoker, so that’s on me, I guess.”

Tennesseans have until mid-December to find an affordable plan in time for the new requirement that nearly everyone have health insurance by January 1st. Some would potentially qualify for subsidized coverage if the state expands its Medicaid program to cover the working poor. The governor says he’s still talking to the White House about it.

Enrollment events are planned for the next several weeks at churches around Middle Tennessee.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is playing a role, speaking at Tuesday’s North Nashville sign-up.

“People can be either for it or against it, but the reality is the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land,” Dean said to applause. “They have to know this insurance is within our reach, and it will take all of us together to get the word out.”

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