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What to know about health care enrollment in Ohio

 COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Many questions remain about the federal Affordable Care Act even though enrollment begins Tuesday for those buying health care coverage through the new insurance marketplace.

Where to get information about health insurance

The Associated Press

Where to find information about the open enrollment period for health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act:

— healthcare.gov

— The federal government has a call center taking questions at 1-800-318-2596.

— To find help where you live, enter your ZIP code under "Find local help" at this link: https://www.healthcare.gov/contact-us/

How it will work varies in each state.

Here are 10 questions and answers about the choices in Ohio and what to expect when enrollment begins:

HOW DO I GET STARTED?

The federal government will run Ohio's health insurance exchange where people can get private insurance subsidized by the government. Go to healthcare.gov to find links to Ohio's exchange and instructions on what steps to take.

IS THERE ANYONE WHO CAN HELP ME FIGURE IT OUT?

Federal dollars are helping groups such as food banks and health centers in Ohio hire and train navigators who can help walk applicants through the process. But state law bans navigators from offering advice on which health benefit plan is better, worse or best suited for someone. Some will work in community centers and health care settings.

WHAT ARE MY CHOICES?

There are four levels of coverage available: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans have the lowest premiums but cover only 60 percent of medical costs on average. That means you'll pay a lot less upfront each month, but you'll pay much more for hospital stays and prescription medicine. Platinum plans have the highest premiums but also cover 90 percent of costs.

WILL THE CHOICES BE THE SAME ACROSS THE STATE?

Not exactly. Twelve insurances companies have been approved to offer about 200 different insurance plans for individuals in Ohio. But not all those companies will be selling plans in all areas of the state. Residents in over half of Ohio's counties will have at least five insurers to choose from while those in the rest of the state will have three or four available.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

The rates vary based on which plan is chosen and other factors, including the age of the individual. The Ohio Department of Insurance said this year that individuals should brace for potentially higher costs when purchasing coverage through the new insurance marketplace. But a report from a nonpartisan health care policy research group countered that tax credits would greatly reduce the final costs for some. President Barack Obama's administration said last week that the average individual premium for a mid-range benchmark plan would cost $321 a month in Ohio before tax credits.

HAVE OUTREACH EFFORTS REACHED THE UNINSURED?

The state Insurance Department isn't doing any advertising to get the word out about the exchange. They're leaving it up to health care providers and other organizations that serve the poor, including food banks and health centers, to promote "Obamacare" to the more than 1.5 million uninsured Ohioans. Some groups have hosted house parties and phone bank events to raise awareness about how to get covered.

HOW MANY PEOPLE IN OHIO ARE PROJECTED TO GET INSURANCE THROUGH THE EXCHANGE?

A study released by the state Insurance Department estimated 524,000 Ohioans would be enrolled in the exchange for individuals by 2017.

WILL THERE BE A WAVE OF PEOPLE TRYING TO ENROLL TUESDAY?

Maybe not right away. Some groups promoting the program think most will need time to figure out what they want and how to access the health insurance exchange.

WILL THE EXCHANGE AND CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE BE READY?

The federal government's website is ready, but groups training navigators to assist applicants only found out in mid-August that they would get money to hire the outreach workers. They've been scrambling to fill those positions, which must be certified by the state.

CAN I GET COVERAGE THROUGH MEDICAID?

That depends. It's still not known whether Ohio will extend the Medicaid program to cover more low-income residents. There is no federal deadline for an expansion decision, though Gov. John Kasich's administration has said they need legislative approval by early fall to give time for additional people to be covered by January. The director of the governor's Office of Health Transformation has declined to give a specific date for the decision.

 

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