Navigating new health care law PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 20 March 2014 09:29
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Deborah Hamilton navigates a website at the Wood County Health District. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
There are more than 12,000 people without health insurance in Wood County, and it's Deborah Hamilton's job to help as many of them as possible sign up before a March 31 deadline.
Posted at the health district four days each week since January, Hamilton helps some of those people navigate Medicare applications and the healthcare.gov website, which offers discounted plans and government subsidies based on income. As many as 60 percent end up with a health plan priced at $100 per month or less, said Brad Clark, navigator project director for the Neighborhood Health Association.
Unexpected illnesses and accidents can wipe out a person's assets and income, a situation the Affordable Care Act attempts to address by expanding Medicaid and subsidizing health plans through healthcare.gov, which is now fully-functional after a rough launch last year.
Medicaid will remain accessible after March 31, but fewer than two weeks remain to sign up on healthcare.gov before the enrollment window opens and penalties begin to take effect for those without insurance. When filing 2014 taxes next year, those without insurance who did not sign up will be assessed the greater of either $95 or 1 percent of their income, fees which will rise in subsequent years.
Similar to employer-provided plans, healthcare.gov is currently offering open enrollment, but after March 31, signing up will require a qualifying event - a change in income or employment, marital status or additional dependents.
The Affordable Care Act has been mired in myth and misinformation, something Hamilton aims to clear up.
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Detail view of health care website.
Those who need insurance may have been without it for years and can be confused or intimidated by the process, Hamilton said. She helps to address misconceptions about the ACA and review details of plans with clients.
"They may be confused on how the health care sites work, or they may not know if their primary care physician accepts it," Hamilton said. "That's one of the reasons why we're here, is to guide them through it, to help them with each step."
Hamilton takes appointments and also accepts walk-ins, serving seven clients per day or more.
"The last couple weeks, it's been extremely busy," and as the deadline approaches, "more people are coming in to see me," she said.
Clark, who supervises 13 navigators in the region, said as many as 6,000 have signed up since November in parts of Wood, Lucas, Erie and Sandusky counties. He recalled one client being so grateful for help signing up that they asked to take their navigator to dinner.
While some provisions of the ACA have been pushed back, Clark said he does not expect the March 31 deadline to be adjusted.
"We just urge people to come out and sit down," Clark said. "Give us an opportunity to show you what your available options are and finally get health insurance for you and your family."

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 10:43
 

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