A lot of people are upset with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Crystal Davis-Taylor said, but it’s here and people need to take advantage of it while they can.
Davis-Taylor, a registered financial specialist for Modern Woodmen of America, offered to help those looking to sign up for federal health care on Thursday by walking people through the process at the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, 109 E. Second St., Ottawa. During one of her two walkthrough workshops Thursday, Davis-Taylor said, some people might hate the new federal health care laws and its system, but they easily could take advantage of the system if they are uninsured.
The walkthrough was necessary because people often have been calling for help to understand the health care plans, Davis-Taylor said. With the last day to apply for the federal health care coverage coming up March 31, Davis-Taylor said, it was important to help people who are in need of health care coverage but are intimidated by the sign-up process.
“I absolutely think part of the problem is that people can be very intimidated by the online process, especially people who don’t have much experience with computers, or especially the Internet,” Davis-Taylor said.
In the second workshop, she said two applicants who used her walkthrough thought they wouldn’t be able to afford the health care plans, but after the workshop they both qualified for free health care. She said because the applicants misunderstood some of the questions that were asked in the enrollment process, they used incorrect information and rates that did not apply to them were offered. Davis-Taylor said she hopes her workshops will help people get the right information and the right rates, because they might actually qualify for a better health plan than they thought.
Understanding the tax credits and the health plans are the most important part of signing up for federal health care, Davis-Taylor said. In some cases, applicants will not qualify for a tax credit, she said, because their income is either too high or too low. She said if a person’s annual income is 400 percent above the poverty level, or $46,680, (the poverty level for one individual being $11,670) then the federal government thinks the person can pay for health coverage out of pocket. If a person’s income is below the poverty level, Davis-Taylor said, the assumption when the law was written, those under the level would be covered by their state’s Medicaid, but Kansas decided to not expand Medicaid.
“What they did was say, ‘If you make under [$11,670] a year, you’re under the poverty level and you’re going to get a federal exemption from having to cover health insurance. However, you’re not going to get any unless you pay for it out of pocket,’” Davis-Taylor said. “So that has put a lot of people in a bad spot, and that’s part of the reason why I’m trying to work with people and make them understand it a little more.”
Davis-Taylor said a lot of people worry about signing up because their annual income fluctuates, and they might make less than the poverty line, or they might make substantially more money than they originally thought. She said if people estimate they will make more than they do, the law actually protects those who thought they were going to make more money than they did, and they will receive the tax credit without having to pay it back.
“People who work for themselves have no idea what their income is going to be for the next year,” Davis-Taylor said. “I did research it through the IRS and the department of revenue, and they will not be forced to pay it back.”
Five types of health plans are offered through the federal health care — catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum — and each has its own types of coverage, and work through either Coventry Health Companies or Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. Each plan and its levels of health care depend on certain details and possess different deductibles an out-of-pocket limit and if the plan uses a network of providers. Each level of coverage has its own plans that depend on certain information of the person applying and that person’s dependents.
While signing up through healthcare.gov, Davis-Taylor said the process can be lengthy and will ask for personal information for the individual signing up and everyone who is a dependent on the insurance policy. Once the system has a person’s information, it will display how much of a tax credit the person is qualified for and the health plans they qualified for, but a person is not committed to any health plan by signing up until they have paid the first payment. The fear of being locked into a plan without knowing everything has scared some people, Davis-Taylor said, as well as not understanding the full process of navigating the website, and disagreeing with the politics. She said she doesn’t want those fears to stop people from getting covered and having some sort of health insurance.
“There’s a lot of politics involved with this. The fact of the matter is it’s good for people,” Davis-Taylor said. “ ... It’s here and let’s take advantage of it. Let it help people like it was intended to.”
Davis-Taylor said she will organize more walkthrough workshops if people express interest. With the final date to enroll to be covered for 2014 coming at the end of the month, she said, she wants to help as many people as possible to get covered.