By Kent Olson, member of Conference Board of Church and Society
Americans who are not covered by affordable health care plans from their employers or from government-sponsored plans can now access the Health Insurance Marketplace to find plans that meet both their insurance needs and their budgets. Lower and even middle-income families may qualify for tax credits that can substantially reduce the costs of their coverage. These “advance premium” tax credits can be used immediately to reduce out-of-pocket costs for monthly premiums. But there is a catch. Those who need coverage to begin January 1, 2014 must complete their application by December 15, 2013. Marketplace open enrollment ends March 31, 2014.
Https://healthcare.gov serves as the federal government’s primary means of educating those who might benefit from this coverage. It will also serve as a convenient place for people to enroll in coverage as well as obtain possible tax credits. The site is relatively easy to navigate. On the page entitled “Get Insurance,” there is a HELP button which provides a list of where to “Find Local Help” in filing out the application. Other languages are supported on the website, and the Help button will provide a list of sites that give assistance in other languages. The government site has a button to click to find out if your state has it’s own marketplace (e.g. California and Nevada) and gives you the link to go there.
For those who lack internet access, information can be obtained by calling 1-800-318-2596. In Arizona you may contact Jonathan Cagle at Wesley Community & Health Center in Phoenix at 602-252-5609.
Churches interested in obtaining resources that will equip them to become more effective enablers for those who need assistance should visit the marketplace.cms.gov. Search for and publicize advisors who are trained to give correct advice. People like Jonathan at Wesley Community Health Center in Phoenix can provide one time information sessions or ongoing assistance at a facility. The least that we can do to assist those who currently lack health insurance from their employers or from Medicare is to encourage them to visithttp://healthcare.gov.
Healthcare.gov has been experiencing technical difficulties. CNN quoted Vice President, Joe Biden apologizing for the website not being ready. “We are confident by the end of November it’ll be, and there’ll still be plenty of time for people to register and get online.”