NASHVILLE -- With just weeks to go before the Affordable Care Act's online health insurance marketplace opens in Tennessee on Oct. 1, state Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, on Monday announced plans to begin educating the community about the program.
Favors and the Clergy Koinonia, a group of local clergy whose president is Bethel AME Church pastor, the Rev. Alan J. Holman, are scheduling the first of several forums this Thursday.
The program is called The Affordable Care Act: A Compelling Conversation for Clergy and will be held from 9:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Olivet Baptist Church.
"I'm trying to make sure that ... they understand this," said Favors, a retired nurse and former health care administrator. "This is going to be a massive undertaking in terms of educating and outreach."
Favors said she and several other speakers from the health and insurance industry will be on hand to explain the new federally operated and funded health insurance marketplace, also known as an exchange.
The keynote speaker is state Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville.
Favors said the clergymen collectively have thousands of church members who want accurate information about how the system works.
The online exchange will let upward of half a million or more eligible Tennesseans buy federally subsidized insurance plans, depending on their income levels, and if they currently have no workplace insurance or do not qualify for the Medicaid program for the poor.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has turned down federal money and declined to set up a state-run exchange. Instead, Tennessee will have a federally operated exchange.
Favors said that with Republicans, who oppose Obamacare, dominating state government and choosing not to run its own exchange, there has been little information provided to Tennesseans about the online marketplaces.
"That's what's been the problem here," she said, noting in some states there are television ad campaigns publicizing the program. "People are very frustrated and not knowing what to do."
She said she is considering becoming one of the "navigators" envisioned under the 2010 law. Navigators are individuals and groups that have received training to explain the program to people and help guide them through the process.