The new health care reform has been in law for more than three months, but a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found confusion about the law remains widespread.
The wide spectrum of activities at the Mall of America in Bloomington is legendary -- you can ride indoor rollercoasters, visit the jellyfish aquarium, shop and even get married at the Chapel of Love. But it's probably fair to say this might be the last place people would think of shopping for information about health reform. AARP is trying to change that.
The legislation is vast and complex: Its provisions consume more than 2,000 pages and its timeline for changes in the health care system goes on for years. As part of a national effort to explain the law's details, AARP has recently trained volunteers to answer questions about the new law.
The organization for people age 50 and over has had an office in the mall's west end for nearly 20 years. It's one of three sites around the U.S. that AARP has trained volunteers to answer questions about the new health care law.
The sign offering health care reform information attracted one senior who euphemistically described himself as "deep into his 50s."
He wanted to know about the so-called doughnut hole rebate check, a rebate for those who exhaust the first tier coverage gap in the Medicare drug program.
Volunteer Bruce Brazelton explained that he'll get some of the money back.
"Once you reach where you have to completely pay out of pocket for your prescription drugs, they're going to rebate you $250," Brazelton said.
Scotty Scattarelli coordinates the volunteers and took a personal interest in health care 10 years ago when she began walking the mall's hallways for exercise every weekday and noticed the AARP center. Now she leads the volunteers.
Scattarelli said, while the new health care law is complicated, volunteers have been willing to put in the effort required to learn about it.
"We're kind of used to doing health care issues anyway, because when the Medicare Part D came out, we had to deal with that," Scattarelli said. "We want to help seniors in any way we can and this was one of the best issues to come along to help seniors."
Scattarelli acknowledges that the volunteers can't know everything in the health care law, but if they can't answer a specific question they know where to find the answer -- if there is one. Brazelton explains to a visitor that the government is still crafting the law's regulations.
"We're all learning to see how it gets implemented ... we're all learning," Brazelton said.
One visitor described the new law as a "big jigsaw puzzle that needs to be put together; a couple pieces missing."
AARP officials think they might need to do more to inform residents about health reform. So, in addition to providing volunteers, AARP will begin holding four information sessions about the health care law in July for its members that live near the mall, and may add more according to demand.