‘Obamacare’ help set

Published 12:06 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

Health Fair planned at ARH Wednesday

For those who are concerned about complying with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, help is available.

Kathryn Hollinghead works for MedAssist in Andalusia Regional Hospital.

“We screen for programs to see what help people are eligible for,” she explained. “And we also contracted to follow-up for the Affordable Care Act.”

The ACA, commonly known as “ObamaCare,” mandates that people buy health insurance or pay a penalty. And Hollinghead said people are having people navigating the web site designed to help them with compliance.

“I’m finding that either they do not have access to a computer, don’t know how to use one, or can’t navigate way through the web site,” she said. “These are the obstacles we run up against trying to get people to sign up.”

To help people overcome those challenges, she is working with Andalusia Regional Hospital to offer a healthcare insurance exchange fair from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. this Wed., Feb. 19, in the hospital classroom. There will be three certified application counselors on hand to assist.

“Help well give them the help they need, totally free,” she said. “We will go with them step-by-step if needed.”

Many have navigated the web site only to find they don’t have enough income to qualify for the program, even though they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. For instance, those whose income falls below the threshold for filing a tax return ($10,000 for individuals, $20,000 for families) are not penalized for being without insurance. Similarly a person who would have to pay more than 8 percent of his or her income for health insurance would not be penalized for not having health care insurance.

For those who meet the criteria and don’t purchase health insurance, the penalty is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 for a family) or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater. The penalty increases in 2015 and 2016. Thos who don’t comply in 2014 will be penalized when they file their income taxes in 2015.

“For those who do qualify, we can go so far as to help purchase healthcare,” Hollinghead said of next week’s health fair. She also can do a quick test before the process begins to let someone know if he or she qualifies for the ACA.

The health fair is free, and participants don’t have to be local patients or even from this area. Open enrollment for ACA ends March 31, and will re-open next fall.

The Affordable Care Act also expanded Medicaid to provide coverage for those in the gap – the working poor who can’t afford coverage under ACA, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid under current guidelines. However, states were not forced to expand Medicaid, and Alabama opted out.

Information on the Affordable Care Act is available at healthcare.gov.