HOLIDAY — Open enrollment started this month for those wishing to find insurance through the newly created federal Health Insurance Marketplace, an online application process set up to facilitate the purchase of health insurance in every state of the United States in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”
With any new policy comes confusion, and to help those with specific questions about the application process, local resources like Premier Community Healthcare Group offer appointments to Pasco residents. Premier is also offering a series of presentations about the Affordable Care Act and what consumers need to know at various libraries throughout Pasco County.
Last Thursday, certified application counselor Zenaida Amador set up shop at the South Holiday Branch Library to meet with locals who had questions. Pasco residents like Pamela Boccaccio, who have already started the application process for health insurance through the marketplace, joined other members of the community to ask questions about the process.
“I just want to get all the information I can get,” Boccaccio said. “I spent hours creating an account, typing and retyping information, until I came to the part about projected income in 2014. That’s where I am right now, so I wanted to make contact with people locally who can help me finish if I need them.”
Boccaccio has health insurance but the premium is high and there is no cap to it, she said. With a couple of pre-existing health conditions, getting affordable insurance has been difficult. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage to Boccaccio and others with pre-existing conditions.
Amador, who keeps politics out of her presentations, said the new health care laws widen insurance coverage for more Americans and include free preventive care, prescription discounts for seniors, more affordable options and protection against health care fraud.
The biggest misconception, she said, is “people are getting confused about the fees and the lack of information about who will be penalized (for not having health insurance) and who will not. A lot of them said, ‘What if I don’t file taxes?’ or ‘Are they going to hunt me down and chase me to pay?’ and I’m like, ‘No, they’re not.’”
The Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to have health insurance by 2014 or they will have to pay a penalty when filing federal income tax returns. During next year’s tax season, those without the minimum required level of coverage will have to pay a $95 fee per person. Each year that fee will increase until the person secures coverage.
There will be options for those who can’t afford to pay for health insurance so that they aren’t penalized, Amador said. You can apply for an exemption on the basis of hardship through the marketplace, which can be accessed at http://healthcare.gov.
Through her presentation, Amador hopes that “people are willing to enroll and see the options and how they will benefit from it. All the subsidies and credits are there.”
The first open enrollment period started Oct. 1 and will continue through March 31, 2014. After that, annual enrollment will be between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7 each year, with the exception of special life circumstances like job loss, childbirth and marriage.
Amador will present two more times for the Pasco community: 2-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Centennial Park Branch Library, 5740 Moog Road, Holiday, for people who primarily speak Spanish; and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at the Hudson Regional Library, 8012 Library Road, Hudson.
After that, Pasco residents can call Premier Healthcare Group at (352) 518-5193, ext. 5016, to set up an appointment for free help through the application process.
The New Port Richey Premier Healthcare Group office is at 2114 Seven Springs Blvd., Suite 300, across from the softball fields.