Those without health insurance may feel like they are being asked to hold their breath and jump into the unknown with the coming implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Monday night, Sept. 23, Susie Brandelius led an informational meeting for the public at the Elks Lodge that was sponsored by Forks Community Hospital and Information and Assistance, a division of Olympic Area Agency on Aging.
The message from the meeting was, “Don’t panic.”
What do you need to know about the ACA?
Social Security numbers are attached to both mandatory insurance and tax statements. Those who don’t play along, will be penalized on their taxes: $95 for the first year for an individual and going up to $695 by 2016.
Employer-provided insurance, military and Medicare will be minimally affected, if at all.
Families using Medicaid will have an increase in eligible incomes.
Insurance offered through the ACA is not open to immigrants; however they will be exempt from the tax penalties.
The feds offer tax credits to help offset the cost of buying the mandatory insurance.
What is supposed to come from the ACA?
Bill McMillan, Forks Community Hospital Administrator, answered questions Monday night too.
“Those people that don’t have insurance and have gone to the emergency room and struggled to pay the huge bills will find this is a way out from under those.”
The insurance going into effect in January will not take care of bills that have come before; it is for the bills incurred after the mandatory insurance coverage kicks in.
McMillan continued by explaining, “On any given month, 70 percent of the patients seen in the ER don’t have insurance. If we get paid for what we do, our prices will go down.”
As it stands now, the 30 percent with insurance are effectively paying for the have-nots.
They’ve got us, now what?
The best advice is to contact Juan Ramon at West End Outreach; Donna Petrovitch, Jordan DePew at the Bogachiel Clinic, or Susie Brandelius at Information and Assistance. They have been trained to help find the best choice for individual families and finances. Their service is free.
The State of Washington has set up an exchange online for comparison shopping. Washington’s system has been used as a template for other states to follow.
The online site is www.wahealthplanfinder.org. You can do it all by yourself, but Brandelius encouraged those with questions not to. In fact, an enterprising insurance brokerage has set up a look-alike site that does not allow people to claim the tax credits.
Clallam County residents have only six plans to choose from, offered by either Lifeways or Premera Blue Cross.
The plans are broken into Bronze, Silver or Gold (Platinum is not available here). Each type reflects what the particular plan will pay, 60 percent, 70 percent or 80 percent, respectively.
All qualified plans must cover doctor’s appointments, emergency medical care, maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescriptions, laboratory work, rehabilitative services, preventative and wellness check-ups, and dental care for children less than 19 years of age.
“The intention is for health care to be affordable for all families‚“ said Brandelius.
With the tax credits and the sliding-scale premiums, there may not be too much to fear.