Despite the partial government shutdown, today marked the first day of enrollment into the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
Hundreds of questions exist about what this law means and how it affects you and your insurance.
This afternoon, health care professions hosted an information session at the Southside Community Health Center on East 37th St.
One lady in the audience asked, "Their unemployment stopped, such as my case, can you tell me what's available?"
Katherlyn Geter, Erlanger's manager over the Affordable Care Act Outreach and Education answered, "It's kind of hard to answer that question, but I would tell you this is an opportunity for you to look to see if you can through the marketplace."
Questions like that filled the Southside Community Health Center.
Geter added this is just day one and much of the kinks and unanswered questions will have to be worked out. She had a message for those in attendance and others exploring the exchanges. "Kind of really stress and emphasize that although today is the first day of open enrollment, it's just a starting point. We want to encourage people to go out on the website, contact the call center or the local resources and kind of see what they need to do."CLICK HERE TO EXPLORE THE EXCHANGES ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S WEBSITE.
The call center number is 1-800-318-2596. And here in Chattanooga, there are several "help sites" for consumers listed below.
*Southside Community Health Center, 100 E. 37th St.
*Dodson Avenue Community Health Center, 1200 Dodson Ave.
*Homeless Health Care Center, 717 E. 11th St.
*Chattanooga and Hamilton County Medical Society and Medical Foundation, 1917 E. Third St.
*Metropolitan Ministries, 1112 McCallie AVenue
*Erlanger Health System, 975 E. Third St.
Meanwhile, back at the information session, Kathleen McCarthy had a unique situation. McCarthy works for a non-profit organization and buys her own insurance and is then reimbursed.
But her premiums just went up about 25 percent and her deductible is high.She's ready to shop the exchanges. "Otherwise most of my expenses would be out of pocket anyway. So it just seems like a waste of money. So I'm hoping one of these new four levels will be a better situation."
We went to the Kaiser Family Foundation website, a non-partisan organization, which has researched the Affordable Care Act extensively. Within the website, a calculator exists that helps you determine what your premium will be.
Here's an example:
After plugging in some variables such as state, zip code and income, an estimate is returned.Realize this is just a tool.
For instance, an individual minimum-wage worker living in Chattanooga, making $15,000 a year could have a premium of $0.
But that is under the premise of a non-tobacco user with no children and selecting the bronze level -- or bare minimum coverage. Even at the bare minimum, higher out-of-pocket costs will be faced.
There are three more tiers - silver, gold and platinum - with much more extensive coverage at higher premium prices.
And for a Chattanooga family of four with a household income of $45,000, under the same bronze plan, the after subsidy premium would be about $1,136 a year.
These examples are non-smokers at bare minimum levels.
Smoking can increase premiums up to 50 percent.
To find out more in-depth information, CLICK HERE TO BE DIRECTED TO THE KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION WEBSITE.
Health care professionals at the Southside Community Health Center advise to make sure you are working with a certified application counselor or "navigator," a licensed insurance broker and be cautious with soliciting calls.
Today marks just the first wave of enrollment, which lasts until the end of March. If you buy coverage before the end of this year, it won't go into affect until January 1.
by John Madewell