By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Confusion abounds as the date for affordable health care options has arrived.
Although individuals needing to find insurance options have until Jan. 2, 2014, the process for which they can apply is being slowed by a high volume of users on the only web site where applications are received, and the number of plans being offered have confused potential customers.
To help alleviate some of the confusion and concerns, Crossroads Community Hospital is sponsoring an informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in the hospital's conferencer room.
Lisa Fager, Director of Business Office Services and Debi Richardson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, will facilitate the informational meeting, which will include information on the Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicaid expansion. These initiatives are part of the Affordable Care Act. A primary goal of the ACA is to help uninsured, eligible Americans gain access to affordable healthcare. Financial help to lower costs is also available for people who qualify.
"The biggest misconception about the ACA is that we were not ready today, as a nation, to implement it. It's about logistics, and being able to turn the switch," said Richardson. "In Illinois, you have to get certified to help people. There are navigators and people like us to help people as a community service. It's difficult for all of those people to get trained because software hasn't been out there for them."
Richardson said Southern Illinois is in a region called Area 13, which provides four different carriers in the marketplace, although they have not been publicly identified.
Richardson said individuals may go to healthcare.gov for more information, where they will have to create a login and provide tax information from 2012. There is also a help desk if people get hung up navigating the web site, although Richardson personally tested the site on Tuesday, and was embroiled in bureaucracy.
Richardson said once into the system, individuals will key in information that should provide prior tax information.
"That will determine if you are allowed any subsidies. You will have to self-attest that you're expecting this year's income to be no more than 10 percent of last year's income," she said.
The plans are based on income and family size, Richardson said, adding that some of the highest rates in Illinois are in the southern part of the state. She also said smokers will pay higher premiums.
"The four plans are bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Platinum is the most expensive, but it will have the lowest deductible and co-pays; the bronze will be the least expensive, but it will have high deductibles and co-pays," she explained.
At the informational meeting, Richardson said hospital officials will present an overview of ACA and the mandates within the program, what subsidies are available, who qualifies, and to answer questions.
"After they hear the presentation, if they want to see what they qualify for, then they can work with our application assistant," Richardson said, adding the assistant will have regular hours at the hospital during the transitional process.