Mayor Vincent Gray attended the DC Health Link information day and enrollment fair. (Courtesy of Facebook)
The District’s health care exchange recently held an enrollment fair that highlighted its benefits and services while basking in a recent court victory verifying its right to its funding source.
Scores of District residents visited the first floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on Nov. 15 to talk to representatives from the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, also known as the DC Health Link, about signing up, changing or getting more information about its health insurance plans. Leaders from the exchange authority were upbeat at the fair as they successfully fought back an attempt by the American Council of Life Insurers in federal court on Nov. 14 to change the way the program is funded.
“The ruling is a victory for the District’s residents and small businesses,” said Diane Lewis, chair of the exchange’s executive board. “DC Health Link provides a critical service to District residents and small businesses by making quality health insurance available under a fair set of rules at affordable prices.”
In 2012, under the option offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the D.C. Council voted to establish a District-managed insurance marketplace through the exchange authority.
In dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell said that Congress intended for states to set up health insurance exchanges and those states had “broad authority to provide adequate funding for those exchanges.”
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) persuaded the members of the D.C. Council to create a District health benefit exchange instead of relying on the federal system. Gray, who greeted residents and staffers at the fair, said that he is proud of the work that has been done to provide health insurance to District residents.
“We are one of four state-based agencies in the nation,” Gray said. “It is my opinion that we have one of the best state exchanges in the nation. We had a glitch here and there, but basically it has been a smooth process.”
The rollout of the District’s health insurance enrollment program took place on Oct. 1, 2013. The city’s program hasn’t had the problems the federal website or the Maryland Health Exchange has had. Gray credited Mila Kofman, the exchange authority’s executive director, for her management of the project.
While the District has cleared a legal hurdle, opponents of the ACA have filed a challenge with the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of King vs. Burwell. This case questions the constitutionality of state-run exchanges. Additionally, Republican leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have pledged to hold votes on repealing the act when the new session of Congress convenes in January 2015.
Gray said that he is puzzled by why so many political leaders want to undo the act.
“We want to make sure that America is as healthy as it can be,” the mayor said. “Because of the Affordable Care Act, 97 percent of children in the District are covered by health insurance. We want to make sure that going to the doctor is a routine part of people’s lives and the Affordable Care Act helps us do that.”
DJ Aladdin, a disc jockey on WPGC, encourages District residents to sign up for health insurance.
“I did not have any health insurance from 2007-2013,” he said. “During that time, I could not afford it and I was hoping that nothing bad happened to me. I enrolled at the last minute, and while the process is not simple, I got my health care card and everything is fine.”
Aladdin said that the program is great for people who do not have a full-time job or work at jobs without benefits. The staff of the exchange authority will assist residents until Feb. 15, 2015, when the open-enrollment period ends.