Posted at 11 a.m., Oct. 31, 2013

Obamacare coverage starts January

Insurance marketplace enrollment opened Oct. 1

By Brooke A. Rogers
Managing Editor

The Affordable Care Act, effective at the beginning of 2014, will change the way Americans get health insurance, what their health insurance will cover and to what plan packages they will have access, and Laramie County Community College may assist its students in this area.

Coverage under the act will begin in January of next year. Until then, enrollment is open for the new resources available under the act called the Health Insurance Marketplace.

“All that people can do right now is go out there and look at the exchanges and educate themselves and then find what fits them, if anything does,” said Judy Hay, LCCC’s vice president of student services.
The marketplace was created to simplify consumers’ searches for health insurance by gathering the options available to them in one place, according to HealthCare.gov, a site created by the government to help Americans navigate the Affordable Care Act and make it possible for them to enroll in marketplace.

Through the marketplace, those who are searching for coverage can compare and enroll in health plans; some will be eligible for lower out-of-pocket costs and better coverage.

Enrollment opened on Oct. 1 and will end March 31 of next year. After that time, no one will be able to get health coverage through the marketplace until the next annual enrollment period beginning next October.

The only exception to this will be those who have a “qualifying life event” such as a move out of state, changes in income and getting marital status or having a baby.

If someone who can afford health insurance doesn’t buy coverage before the deadline of March 31, he may be fined up to 1 percent of his annual income or $95, whichever is higher. This fee goes up to 2.5 percent of your income or $695 in 2016.

“(The fee) goes up in a few years, but the first year it’s rather low,” Hay said. “I would say they’re allowing some time for people to decide whether or not they’re going to enroll.”

Residents of Wyoming will need to enroll in the marketplace through HealthCare.gov because the state has chosen not to set up an exchange at this time.

According to Becky Orr of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, locals of Wyoming have stepped up to help uncertain residents find their way through the act, and to assist them in signing up.

Free classes for the uninsured

The group was started by two non-profits with the goal to reach 83,000 people in Wyoming who are uninsured by the end of March, 2014, and will give presentations about the health insurance plans. The Navigators will offer free classes from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 13 in the computer room of the Laramie County Library, and those who are confused can call 307-634-1010 to get their questions answered.

Hay explained one of the new changes the law has brought into effect is children of those who have eligible insurance plans are covered under their parents plans until they are 26 years.

The law itself states that “a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering a group or individual health insurance coverage that provides dependent coverage of children shall continue to make coverage available for an adult child until the child turns 26 years of age.”

Hay explained how this would affect the majority of the students at LCCC. “The bulk of our students are under the age of 26,” Hay said. “A lot of our students would be covered under their parents if their parents are covered.”

The act will also affect how much many students will have to pay on their health insurance, according to Hay.

“If you make under 400 percent of the poverty level, which averages out around $46,000 (a year), you would qualify for a subsidy,” Hay said. She explained this would help with the cost of insurance premiums for those who qualify.

“I think that would be one of the big benefits for all of our students at this point who are covered is then you get some help with coverage. So that might make school plans more affordable,” Hay commented.

Because the law affects the majority of students, LCCC may be offering an insurance plan before the end of the year. “A lot of colleges have plans that you can enroll in, but they’re quite expensive, too,” Hay explained. “Any insurance is expensive until you need it, and then it was a really great deal.” Students will not be required to enroll in the college’s plan, according to Hay.

The college has also agreed to host educational seminars on the Affordable Care Act. “We have been talking to the state’s commissioner on health insurance, and he has approached LCCC to ask if we would be open to them offering some education services on our campus, and we have said, ‘Absolutely yes,’” Hay said.

No dates have been set thus far, but the college is hoping to bring in the experts on the act before coverage begins in January. “They want to do some public education, and we, as a public institution, want to offer our facilities for that,” Hay explained. “We would really prefer that we bring in experts, rather than us trying to become those experts.” The college will make information available as plans are further developed.

 

HealthCare.gov