Health insurance experts answer Obamacare questions at luncheon in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Health insurance experts answer Obamacare questions at luncheon in Steamboat Springs

Community members listen to a presentation Friday on the impacts of the Affordable Care Act. Speakers made it clear there still are unknowns about the law

— The dozens of people who gathered last week at Colorado Mountain College to gauge what impact Obamacare will have on them and their businesses learned even the experts on the issue still are trying to understand all of the changes.

Eric Hirschberg, the executive vice president of insurance brokers Lockton Companies, said it will all take some time to unravel.

"If you haven’t figured all of this out yet, don’t feel badly," Hirschberg said after an hourlong presentation on the new health care law. "I’ve been studying this for years, and I’m still trying to get my arms around it."

Hirschberg and Michelle Lueck, the CEO of the Colorado Health Institute, led a luncheon hosted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and Wells Fargo bank.

In a week of new struggles for the Obama administration about the glitch-ridden and bumpy roll out of the Affordable Care Act, Hirschberg outlined the challenges that still are ahead.

Despite some controversial new Colorado advertisements aimed at young "invincibles" who don’t have health insurance, he predicted the age group wouldn’t embrace purchasing insurance over facing a new fine that would amount to about 1 percent of their income.

Lueck aslo showed data from a new Colorado health survey that showed most people who don’t have insurance aren’t willing to pay what it would cost them to obtain it in the new health exchange.

During the question and answer period, audience members had some specific policy questions.

A woman who works seasonally for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. outlined how it was a struggle each year to receive partial benefits from her employer and then face an offer of a COBRA plan for extended coverage that would cost her more than $1,600 per month.

"That’s out of the question for my family," she told the audience.

She added that with her seasonal benefits status, she was having difficulty applying her situation to the launch of the new health insurance marketplace in Colorado.

"You just hit the nail on the head. It’s pretty darn complicated," Hirschberg said. "That’s the legwork you’re going to have to go through to find new or better coverage."

Near the end of the luncheon, audience members asked how the new health law would affect local care.

Yampa Valley Medical Center CEO Frank May said the model has to change.

"We have to change our model, and this is going to take a lot of time," he said. "We’ve grown up in an era of diagnostic testing and fix things as they occur. For us to fix the broken system we have, we have to change the way we provide health care."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10