Sarah Payne isn’t sure why she has daily migraines, but she hopes to get answers soon.
Payne has an appointment with a neurologist, something she could not afford until she recently bought a private health insurance plan through the federal marketplace.
“I could have an aneurysm. There could be a tumor in my head we don’t know about,” Payne said. “But because I haven’t been to a doctor in four years, who knows?”
Payne, 35, a hair stylist in Oklahoma City, is among thousands of Oklahomans who have selected private health insurance plans through the federal health insurance marketplace created through the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.
The deadline to select a marketplace plan is March 31 unless — like Payne, a member of the Cherokee Nation — you are a member of an American Indian tribe that has members who receive services at Indian health clinics.
For these tribal members, marketplace enrollment is always open. And if tribal members have an income between 100 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level, they don’t have any out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, said Cori Loomis, a health care attorney with the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm.
American Indians generally can get a range of health care services at tribal health clinics and hospitals.
However, when they need services beyond the scope of what’s available at those facilities, they might be referred to health services at other facilities provided at the expense of Indian Health Service, according to the health service.
Loomis said enrolling in a private health insurance plan through the marketplace can mean more options closer to home.
“It’s really to get a broader spectrum of services available to you because the Indian health clinics primarily focus on primary care,” Loomis said. “It’s also to get access to a broader spectrum of services and possibly better geographic coverage. Some Native Americans may live in areas that are rural and not close to an Indian health clinic, so it would be more convenient as well.”
Payne chose to buy health insurance because she wanted more options.
In years past, she was uninsured and had looked for coverage. She found she would have to pay $300 per month or more.
When she started looking at marketplace plans, she realized she qualified for a subsidy, and ended up paying about $100 a month for her coverage after a $20 subsidy.
“I know that now if I spike a migraine in the middle of the night or that I’m vomiting or blacking out, that I can go to the ER and I don’t have to worry about it,” Payne said.
“Whereas before if that happened, it was basically wanting to put an anvil on my head, and I was taking two aspirin, two Tylenol, two this, two that. I was taking like 15 over-the-counter medications a day, probably eating my stomach up.”
The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic recently published “Helping American Indian families understand the Affordable Care Act.” You can see it online at www.okcic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/HORIZONS_ADA.pdf