GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Today is the first day for people who lack health insurance, or whose health insurance is not meeting their needs, to sign up for President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform program, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) — otherwise known as Obamacare.
Between now and March 23, 2014 — the last day that people can sign up on the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace for 2014 — the Obama administration is hoping that most of those without health insurance will register and get insurance from those companies that have signed up to participate. For subsequent years, the “open enrollment” periods will be a few months at the end of each year.
According to a statement on the website, obamacarefacts.com, there are an estimated 44 million Americans who have been unable to obtain health insurance on their own or though their jobs, and the principal target of the program is those individuals and businesses.
By buying insurance through the ACA, any individual earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or up to approximately $46,000 for individuals and up to $95,000 for a family of four, can apply for subsidized insurance through their state government’s marketplace, the obamacarefacts.com website reports. The marketplace in Colorado is called Connect for Health Colorado (C4H).
But Jan 1, 2014, also is the date that Medicaid eligibility is to be expanded to include an estimated 160,000 Coloradans, which has an effect on one’s eligibility for the ACA-related subsidies or discounts.
According to the connectforhealthco.com website, eligibility for Colorado Medicaid in 2014 will be open to those earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which for 2013 is expected to mean about $15,000 a year for an individual, or approximately $30,000 a year for a family of four. Those who fall under these guidelines will not be eligible for the ACA-related tax credits.
In Colorado, however, according to the C4H website, approximately 800,000 Coloradans are uninsured, while an unknown number of small businesses do not offer health insurance as a benefit for employees, which should translate into plenty of users of the ACA-related marketplace starting today.
The connectforhealthco.com website offers a variety of routes for individuals, families and businesses to shop for health insurance, get discounts and subsidies and learn a considerable number of details about the history of the ACA and its goals. The website estimates that roughly 500,000 Coloradans will be eligible for assistance, and states that in July the C4H received a $116 million awarded from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, to help get the Colorado marketplace up and running.
The site contains links to videos about the health-care stories of Coloradans, ways to have speakers from C4H to address local organizations and groups, and “county snapshots” that details how the system works at the county level — including Garfield County.
And those lacking an Internet connection can call 1-855-PLANS-4-YOU (855-752-6749) to speak with a customer representative.
For policies purchased by Dec. 15, coverage can begin as soon as Jan. 1, 2014, and those who receive tax credits will be able to claim those credits when they file their income tax returns in 2015. According to the website, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service will determine the actual value of the tax credit, and then either apply it to a refund or lower tax liability for the applicant.
The C4H home page contains “hot topics” links to introduce visitors to the program (Get Ready To Shop) and direct employers to specific contact information for help in negotiating the website (Employer Notice).
A button labeled “County Snapshots” provides shoppers information about insurance carriers, premium prices (before tax credits) and other items, including for Garfield County.
The Garfield County “snapshot,” viewed on Sept. 30, promised that, as of Oct. 1, the page would contain contact information about where to get help locally, although that information was not displayed on Sept. 30.
The “snapshot” indicated that there are four carriers offering individual and family plans for Garfield County residents — Access Health Colorado, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Colorado HealthOP, and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
The Garfield County page displays a chart of examples of premiums for individuals, for a 27-year-old and a 40-year-old, and a chart laying out examples of premiums under the small-group plans, which typically are designed for businesses. The small-group premiums, according to the chart, also gives details only for people who are either 27 or 40 years old.
The Garfield County page for small-group plans also contained no information about local contacts for assistance on Sept. 30, but promised that information concerning “more than 1,000 licensed health insurance agents and brokers” will be posted on the website on Oct. 1.
In addition, small employers can seek assistance from the Colorado Small Business Development Center Network, Eagle County Health & Human Services, and Mountain Family Health Centers, the website stated on Sept. 30.
For more information, go to www.connectforhealthco.com or call 1-855-PLANS-4-YOU (855-752-6749).