Bethel AME Church, 501 W. Orange Ave. in Tallahassee, Fla., is set to host its inaugural lecture series on Jan. 11, 2014, from 10 a.m.2 p.m. as a town hall meeting.

The church intends to convene discussions and lecture topics germane to all people in an effort to educate and enlighten our communities. This meeting will include presentations and panel discussions from noted experts on the Affordable Care Act, including Carl Patten, director of Health Policy, Florida Blue Cross, Blue Shield; Dr. Gil Silva, deputy director of CMS, Region 4 (Georgia and Florida), Medicare and Medicaid; Joseph Webster, MD, local gastroenterologist; and Dr. Elsie Crowell, consumer advocate.

 The principal lecturer and panelist will be Herbert Smitherman, MD, MPH, FACP, assistant dean of Community and Urban Health, Wayne State School of Medicine in Detroit, Mich. Smitherman was nominated for the lofty post of U.S. surgeon general. He is also a former member of the U.S. Health Advisory Committee and co-author of Taking Care of The Uninsured: The Path to Health Reform. 

This town hall meeting is intended to erase all the myths and inform the public on all germane aspects related to the Affordable Health Care Act and its anticipated implications on both the patient and health care provider.


What is the Affordable Care Act?

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the comprehensive health reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. This law focuses on provisions to provide more Americans with affordable health insurance coverage, control health care costs, closing the gap on healthcare disparites thus improving the health care delivery system. According to the U.S. Census, more than 30 million Americans don't have health insurance and 50 percent of the uninsured are the working class.

Some of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act include:

* Free preventive health care appointments

* Health insurance coverage for you and your children, even if you have pre-existing conditions.

* Coverage for people 26 years of age or younger, even for those who do not live with parents and are not students.

* Creation of the Health Insurance Marketplaces to enroll through March 31, 2014.


What is a Health Insurance Marketplace?

Health Insurance Marketplace can help you find the best health insurance plan for your needs and budget. All plans in Marketplaces will offer comprehensive coverage, and you will be able to compare available options, prices, and plans by filling our just one application. After you apply, you will learn whether you qualify for free or low cost health care, such as Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program.

All health insurance plans in the Marketplaces are offered by private companies. Your state has the choice to host a Marketplace or to allow the United States Department of Health and Human Services to host it. For south Georgia and north Florida it is Blue Cross, Blue Shield.

Commonly asked questions will be discussed during the Town Hall Meeting:

— What are the different types of plans being offered?

— What if I have a pre-existing condition?

— What if I can't afford or don't get health insurance? What will be the penalty?

— How and where do I get enrolled in my community?

— What if I already have health insurance? Can I still use a Marketplace?

— What are navigators and how can they help me get enrolled?

 For more information, contact Darryl Jones, public relations, at Bethel AME Church at 850-576-7501 or  Linda I. Walden, MD, program chair at 229-377-0908.



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