Are You Uninsured?
Washington Hospital Offers Free Services to Help Residents Find Health Insurance under the New Affordable Care Act
The countdown continues to Jan. 1, 2014 - the day when nearly all Americans are expected to have health insurance coverage, according the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010. Washington Hospital, through its free Health Insurance Information Service, is working to help local residents understand the insurance requirements of the law and assist them with enrollment in a plan, if needed.
"The insurance requirements and benefits of the Affordable Care Act are new for everyone," said Kristi Caracappa, health insurance information coordinator at Washington Hospital. "We want to support people as they learn about what it will mean for themselves and their family members. And, when necessary, we want to help them find the right health insurance for them."
This month, the Hospital is sponsoring a free seminar to give residents information about their insurance options and health care services available in our community. Options for children, adults, seniors and those with pre-existing conditions will be discussed, and information on free and low-cost services will be provided at the seminar.
Called "Finding the Right Health Insurance," the class will be help on Tuesday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West building next to Washington Hospital in Fremont. To reserve your spot, go online to www.whhs.com and look under Upcoming Seminars, or call (800) 963-7070.
If you already have affordable health insurance through your employer or another government program like Medicare, there is nothing you need to do to comply with the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act. But, according to the California Healthcare Foundation, 22 percent of Californians do not have health insurance.
Once the open enrollment period begins on Oct. 1, millions of residents will have the opportunity to enroll in more affordable coverage available through Covered California, the State's new health insurance benefits exchange. Low-income individuals and families not eligible for other types of affordable coverage, such as Medicaid, may qualify for federal financial assistance in purchasing insurance.
An estimated 2 million California residents are expected to enroll in a health plan through Covered California by 2017. California was the first state in the nation to enact legislation to implement the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act by creating this health care marketplace.
Covered California gives people the tools to shop for health insurance that meets their needs and fits their budget. On the exchange's Web site www.coveredca.com, you can compare available health plans, get answers to questions and enroll in the plan you select. In addition, Covered California can help small businesses find affordable health insurance for their employees. There is also a toll-free consumer assistance phone hotline.
"At the seminar on April 23, we'll talk about how the exchange will work and how people can determine the cost of coverage, depending on if they are looking for an individual plan or a family plan," explained Caracappa.
The Covered California site includes an online calculator to help people determine how much they can anticipate paying for health insurance obtained through the exchange.
"We will also try to address areas of particular concern, such as the needs of people who have no coverage because they have been out of work. And, we'll review different types of health insurance and government-sponsored programs," she added.
People with a pre-existing condition who were previously unable to get affordable coverage, can also find a plan to fit their needs. The law no longer allows insurance carriers to deny coverage due to illness or a pre-existing condition.
Plans selected during open enrollment will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. According to the Affordable Care Act, people over 18 who do not have insurance coverage by that date will be assessed a penalty.
Washington Hospital's Insurance Information Service is a free, confidential program that works to provide people with the information they need to make informed decisions about their health insurance. You can reach them at (800)770-9447 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Information is available by phone, or you can make an appointment for a free personal consultation.
To find out more about Washington Hospital's Health Insurance Information Service, visit www.whhs.com/health-insurance.