By Diane Emeott
“Today, with the website working, we were able to complete a few applications online…
“[In fact,] we’ve processed about 350 applications in person, over the phone and online from Oct. 1 until last week. We’ve probably done 30 since then,” — Jerson Dulis countered national media reports on MSNBC and CNN about recent glitches with the U.S. government’s website that have kept people from applying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act known as “Obamacare.”
Dulis, Community Outreach Manager for Broward Community & Family Health Centers, Inc., was one of three panelists who informed about 50 area residents and answered their questions at an Affordable Care Act Town Hall at Westside Park Recreation Center in Deerfield Beach, Tuesday night, Oct. 29.
Notables attending included: a representative from U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings office, Broward Democratic State Committeewoman Maggie Davidson and local Pastors Anthony Davis and Nathaniel Knowles.
Said State Representative Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, District 92, “We’re very pleased to get all the people out tonight. As we hear all the negatives on the news, we’re going on. We’re moving on. This is the law of the land and we’re going to abide by it.
“In 2010 this law [the Affordable Care Act] was passed. Since 2010, folks have had the opportunity to learn what’s going to happen.”
Clarke-Reed said the issue of whether the insurance marketplace would come through the State of Florida or the feds was one of the things she and others were fighting the Republican Party for during the last Legislative session in Tallahassee this past March through May.
“Whether to accept $52 billion so that 1.3 million Floridians could be insured? The House of Representatives refused. The Senate was willing to take the money. This marketplace now is through the federal government,” she said of the 9 approved insurance companies that offer the plans.
They are: **Cigna, Coventry Health, Sunshine State, Aetna, Preferred Medical Plan, Molina Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, Health Options.**
Reasons for individuals to explore the new healthcare options are: no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, subsidies and tax credits “make insurance more affordable,” essential health benefits increase coverage.
Contrastingly, CBS news reported that same morning that Obamacare is making everything **more expensive,** not just premiums. As [some] insurance companies have chosen to cancel policies and offer more expensive replacements, allegedly 2 million are losing their policies, the report stated.
[ ] ½ of Americans have insurance through their jobs.
[ ] 1/3 have insurance through the government, either Medicare — or Medicaid, which will be expanding.
[ ] 1/10 buy insurance themselves.
[ ] Another 30 million Americans have no insurance at all.
Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more employees will be required to supply health insurance or pay a penalty.
Smaller employers will have incentives to offer health insurance to their employees.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW
Open enrollment goes from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014.
“It is vital. If people don’t apply by Dec. 15, 2013 your coverage may not come into play by Jan. 1,” explained Dulis.
“It’s pay-as-you-go. If you don’t pay for a month, you aren’t covered for that month,” said panelist Vince Johnson from Broward Health.
In addition to online applications, people can do phone applications, or pick up, fill out and send by certified mail written applications.
Certified application counselors and navigators are available to assist you for FREE in filling out an application, said panelist Mayte Canino from Planned Parenthood Public Affairs.
In order to compare your current insurance with possible savings in the new Health Insurance Marketplace, steps are to: 1) Make an application 2) Receive correspondence with spreadsheet options regarding your personal situation — they’ll shop it for you with the different insurance agencies.
If you decide to go forward with Affordable Care, 3) Enroll.
“If you have insurance with an employer, etc. it doesn’t preclude you from going through the Exchange and Open Enrollment,” explained Clarke-Reed. Then, **you** decide whether you’re going to accept and enroll.”
She added that after serving on the State Board of Military & Veterans Benefits, “If I was a veteran, I would not move one step.”
The Health Insurance Marketplace has been described as being ‘like an insurance mega mall, with cheaper plans to platinum plans.’
**There are four types of plan:**
Platinum — 90 percent of costs paid by Health Plan/10 percent by Individual.
Gold — 80 percent of costs paid by Health Plan/20 percent by Individual.
Silver – 70 percent of costs paid by Health Plan/30 percent by Individual.
Bronze – 60 percent of costs paid by Health Plan/40 percent by Individual.
There are no specific plans for those with cancer, diabetes, or other serious health conditions. While **all** the plans will cover such a person, platinum and gold are more geared to those needed extended health services, while silver and bronze are geared to basically healthy, young people.
To make the best use of your time, and not have to reschedule an appointment with an application counselor or navigator, make sure to bring appropriate documentation to answer these questions on a 2-to-3-page individual application: Income, Family size, Zip code, Smoker or Nonsmoker.
For the 7-page family application, you will be asked to provide: Social Security number, Driver’s License, Proof of Income for taxes.
Things that can delay the process are having different names on different forms of ID, or two last names when comparing Driver’s License, Social Security Card, and Green Card, if applicable.
[ ] To register for the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit www.healthcare.gov or call the hotline at 1-800-318-2596.
[ ] Broward Health North has a local enrollment site at 201 E. Sample Rd., Deerfield Beach, 33064. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 954-786-6589 for an appointment.
[ ] For assistance in filling out an application through Broward Community & Family Health Centers, Inc., contact Outreach & Enrollment Specialists Dontraey R. Oliver-Johnson in Pompano at 954-970-8805 or Lynore Patrice Dyer in Hollywood at 954-967-0028. For more information, go to www.bcfhc.org.