The Coalition for Justice of Northwest Florida sponsored a workshop called, “Understanding the Affordable Care Act” at the Marie K. Young-Wedgewood Community Center at 6405 Wagner Road. In an interview concerning the event Carol McIntosh, Secretary of the Coalition, stated that those in attendance learned about the importance of the Affordable Care Act and how it can impact their ability to obtain health insurance through the marketplace/exchange, some for the first time.
Information on the Essential Health Benefits and preventive health services for children, adults and women was available as well. Ms. McIntosh stated, “We definitely plan on sponsoring more events to educate our community and assist them in obtaining insurance coverage from the marketplace.” Participants were urged to go on the website (www.healthcare.gov) to obtain additional information as well. She stated in a recent meeting of the Coalition as the group assessed the results of the workshop, “We (the Coalition for Justice) plan on sponsoring an event with computer-based sign-up in the near future with assistance from local navigators.”!
A presenter at the Coalition’s Affordable Care Act workshop was Susan Godwin, an agent at Combined Insurance Services, Inc. located at 2704 North 12th Avenue sandwiched between East Hill Hardware and Hanniton Watts American Legion Post #193. The Pensacola Voice interviewed Sharon Godwin who stated that she really enjoyed giving the presentation at the Coalition’s event and looks forward to more opportunities to assist the community in understanding the Affordable Care Act.
As she spoke with the Voice by phone she stated that, “My main goal on Saturday was to educate about what Health Care Reform is, how it affects individuals in regards to the 2014 Individual Mandate to have coverage, how to apply for coverage, and what penalties may be imposed if an individual does not have the required coverage. Here are some of the key points that she covered:
- The Marketplace, also known as The Exchanges, opened 10/1/13 and Open Enrollment goes through 03/31/14.
- Coverage for all health insurance plans effective 1/1/14 are guaranteed issued. This is the best part of the changes, in the past; an insurance carrier could decline coverage, charge a higher rate or not cover a specific condition due to current or past medical conditions and/or treatments.
- For individuals who are married, they must file a joint tax return.
- The penalty for 2014 is $95 or 1% of the taxable household income, the tax applies to individuals and dependents, for dependents under the age of 18, the amount is 50% of the adult cost.
- The actual insurance coverage is provided by private insurers, such as Florida Blue (aka Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida). Most people think that the Government is providing the coverage.
- Individuals, whose income is between 100% to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, may qualify for an advanced premium tax credit “subsidies”. This is only available through the Exchange System.
Ms. Godwin stated that she has been presenting the seminar to individuals and groups since October. The responses have been positive with individuals leaving the presentations with a better idea of what they need to do and how to proceed with applying for health insurance coverage. She said that she was eager to be able to start signing individuals up for coverage on October the 1st, only to be delayed due to the web site complications. She stated that she has meet with over 30 individuals to date and I have been able to assist them with electing a health plan for their needs, giving them an estimate on the subsidy that they may qualify for, but haven’t been able to finish the enrollments. This is the most frustrating part of the whole thing. Everyone is just waiting for all of the “bugs” to be worked out of the system so that they can start applying for the actual health insurance coverage.
She provided an example of an estimated subsidy: David and his wife Karen both work, but are not offered group health insurance coverage through their employer. They have 3 children under the age of 18. Their estimated income for 2014 will be $40,000. Based upon this information, they are 145% of poverty level. The maximum percentage of income that they have to pay for the premium (if eligible for a subsidy) is 3.71% for a Silver Plan, with the cost being $10,902 for the coverage, they could be eligible for a government tax credit subsidy of up to $9,417 per year which would cover 86% of the overall premium.
She stated that, as an insurance agent, everything is changing from where they were just 5 years ago. Ms. Godwin feels that the actual coverage is getting better and they are seeing that more individuals are now going to visit their primary care physicians for preventative/wellness visits which helps detect early signs of problems/conditions that may arise in the future.