Anton Gunn | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Anton Gunn

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Anton Gunn is the keynote speaker at the Jackson Medical Mall's Affordable Care Act Community Forum tonight.

A common question people ask U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Anton Gunn is how to sort through the misinformation surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"If they visit healthcare.gov, which is the most accurate and factual information about the Affordable Care Act, it (provides) search tools for access to insurance," he says. "... It will direct you to options available in your state."

Tonight, Gunn is the keynote speaker at the Affordable Care Act Community Forum at the Jackson Medical Mall. The South Carolina native says he will discuss the federal government's role in extending health-care coverage to millions of Americans and preventing insurance companies from denying people with pre-existing conditions.

Since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March, Gunn has traveled throughout the South to educate communities on the impact of the bill. Gunn, whose office is based in Atlanta, works with federal and local officials to address health and social services in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

"I will talk in general about the Affordable Care Act and what it means for Mississippi. I will discuss the federal government's role in health-care implementation, and some of the benefits that have already been passed on to the state," he says.

Gunn says, for example, that the Affordable Care Act has already provided 14,000 Mississippi seniors with a one-time $250 check to pay for prescription drugs, while the bill closes the Medicare prescription-drug coverage gap. The drug coverage gap requires Medicare patients to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs after they spend a certain about of money, depending on their plan. Starting in 2011, Medicare patients will receive a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs that fall in that "donut hole."

Gunn will also talk about the additional funding Mississippi will receive from the bill such as $400,000 for epidemiology, $100,000 for HIV/AIDS prevention and $1.5 million for health clinics.

"Many people are expecting health care to just change overnight, and it won't change overnight," he says. From 2010 to 2014, various aspects of the Affordable Care Act are implemented at different phases."

Gunn worked as the political director for Obama's 2008 presidential primary campaign in South Carolina. In 2008, Gunn, 37, became the first African American elected to serve his district in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He earned his bachelor's degree in history and master's degree in social work from the University of South Carolina, where he also played football. In August, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appointed Gunn to serve as regional director.

The Affordable Care Act Community Forum is tonight at 6 p.m. at Jackson Medical Mall (350 W. Woodrow Wilson Ave.), in the UMC Conference Center. To RSVP, call 601-353-0845.

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