After a decade of going without health coverage, Emma Benson is ready to shop for Obamacare’s insurance plans.
Benson, a 50-something Akron resident, said she lost her health coverage when she lost her job in an accounting department for tire stores.
The part-time jobs she’s had in the years that followed didn’t offer insurance or pay enough for her to afford to buy coverage on her own.
With health-care reform, she said, “At least you have some health care.”
Local agencies, politicians and grassroots supporters of the federal health-care reform law commonly known as Obamacare held an event at the Akron-Summit County Public Library on Tuesday to promote the launch of the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
The marketplace, also known as an exchange, was created through Obamacare as a way for consumers to shop for plans sold by participating private insurers.
The computerized system online at www.healthcare.gov also allows consumers to apply for federal subsidies to help buy coverage available through the exchange.
Open enrollment for the new plans started Tuesday and continue through March 31. Consumers who apply for a plan before Dec. 15 will have coverage effective Jan. 1.
Most Americans are required to have health insurance next year or face a potential financial penalty when they file their taxes for 2014.
Benson said she’s hopeful she’ll be able to find a plan she can afford through the new federal program.
Tax credits are available on a sliding scale to help purchase insurance through the marketplace for people with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four.
In the meantime, she’s been relying on the student medical clinic at the University of Akron for care whenever she gets sick while she finishes her master’s degree to become an intervention specialist.
Benson attended Tuesday’s event at the urging of a friend to find out more about the marketplace and how the health law might help her.
“I would rather have health care,” she said. “I know it’s coming, but I don’t know all the particulars of it.”
Local outreach efforts are targeting Benson and the estimated 63,000 to 69,000 other Summit County residents who lack health insurance.
“This is an opportunity,” said Donna Skoda, deputy health commissioner for Summit County Public Health. “We want to make sure everyone has the access.”
The Summit County health department has been designated a “certified application counselor” by the federal government and plans to work with the city of Akron to hold enrollment events beginning the middle of this month, Skoda said.
Residents can call 330-926-5660 for more information.
For people who prefer to apply through the mail, the agency has posted a copy of the application form on its website, www.scphoh.org. Select “Information about Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace” to access printable application and instruction sheets.
Asian Services in Action Inc. (ASIA Inc.) also plans to help uninsured area residents who speak limited or no English apply for coverage and financial help through the marketplace, said Cathy Vue, a program coordinator for the agency.
The agency is offering interpreter services for more than 30 languages. Call 330-535-3263 for information.
“We’re working with the population we don’t want to be left behind,” Vue said.
According to Summit County Public Health, insurers that are selling plans through the marketplace in Summit County include Community (Anthem), Buckeye Community Health Plan, Caresource, Kaiser, MHIC (Medical Mutual), Paramount and SummaCare.
Insurers can only consider family size, age, location and tobacco use when setting rates in the exchange.
People with veteran’s benefits or coverage through Medicare or Medicaid don’t need to go to the new marketplace, Skoda said. Most people with coverage through their job also don’t need to use the new program, although some with high out-of-pocket costs and premiums could qualify for subsidies for exchange plans.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.