After a slow start for the Affordable Care Act in December, numbers have been rising nationally and locally, even enough to fund another full-time position through Thrive Allen County.
Karen Robertson is the newest addition to Thrive, her office is set up in the back room of their office on the Iola square, with a thin divider separating her desk from the conference room. Her job is to assist people in the ACA marketplace, and to help answer questions whenever she can.
“It’s about finding the resources to help people, and how it (ACA) can help help people,” Robertson said Monday afternoon.
She and her husband, John, who also works for Thrive, have lived in Allen County for the past two years and reside in Humboldt. When John broached her about the new position, it offered an interesting change in her work life from a position at Gates Manufacturing.
“He came and asked me if I wanted to help out and be a Navigator, and I asked, ‘what the heck is a Navigator,’” Robertson said with a chuckle.
She took the 20-hour training and is now a full-time employee of Thrive. Her position is funded by a ?????? grant through the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City (75 percent) and the REACH Healthcare Foundation (25 percent).
“I’ve learned a lot about Iola and Allen County,” Robertson said. She works five days a week to help those with questions — and there are always questions.
According to the Associated Press, the federal government reported Friday that 3 million people have now signed up for private coverage through federal and state markets, and another 6.3 million have been deemed eligible for Medicaid coverage.
For those living in Allen County, the questions still abound, but Robertson said it seems people are becoming clearer almost every day.
“Most people I have talked to have been pleasantly surprised,” Robertson said. “It’s really not a political thing anymore. It’s a law you have to comply with.”
She said the numbers have been steady since Thrive began offering their Navigator service — both John Robertson and Georgia Masterson are Navigators as well.
She said the next phase of their efforts is to get the information out to Allen County’s rural populations. They have already done presentations in Mildred, and are currently offering services in Moran and Humboldt. Robertson said she is available in-person in Humboldt on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and in Moran on Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m. However, she is available every workday currently in the Thrive Allen County offices.
Her office will be moving however, to the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas on East Street. She will be able to help those with questions from a new office in the lobby.
She said there are a lot of misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act, and many people — supportive of the act or not — have been pleasantly surprised after leaving her office.
She said a farmer came in to speak with her, and he had never been insured in his entire life. He left with an insurance policy for he and his wife at a monthly rate of $150.
“He was tickled to death,” she said.
ROBERTSON MADE the decision to leave her position as the safety director for the Gates Corporation to act as a full-time Navigator.
She had been a long-term safety employee and felt like she needed a change.
“I just wanted to take a break from it because I’d been doing it for 30 years,” she said.
The grant money is allotted for one year, and then Thrive will re-evaluate the position. Believe it or not, working as a Navigator is a less-stressful way for Robertson to spend her time, and she is enjoying every minute of it.
“I just really like to help people get something out of it,” she said.