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Deadline for Health Insurance Enrollment Approaches

In Virginia, the debate over Medicaid expansion has dominated the news lately.

In the Charlottesville area, the Greater Charlottesville Health Coalition has been working to help local residents understand the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and walk them through the application process. As the March 31 enrollment deadline approaches, we’d like to reflect on what we have been able to accomplish. Jessie Ray, who runs special projects for our United Way, coordinated the efforts of the Coalition and the group’s CvilleEnrolls.org website.

Jessie confirms that because of the well-known early issues with HealthCare.gov, local enrollment got off to a rough start, but by early December most of the site’s features were in working order and the Coalition members were able to help a number of people get enrolled. The Coalition members knew that many people needed basic information on how health insurance works, and they also needed to address many misperceptions about the Affordable Care Act. Jessie and volunteer Jack Hanrahan held several informational presentations at local library branches.

CvilleEnrolls quote pre-existingHealth Care Navigators from Legal Aid, plus trained enrollment counselors from JABA, ASG and United Way worked together to get as many people enrolled as possible before the Dec 23rd deadline for coverage that began on January 1, 2014. The Coalition estimates that between 125-150 people were enrolled through Coalition partners before the end of 2013.

The people seeking insurance have a variety of backgrounds. Many people we have helped are self-employed and have not had insurance for several years due to the cost. In addition, Jessie has helped several people who had pre-existing conditions and were able to sign up with the help of the subsidies. We also saw a number of older clients who don't yet qualify for Medicare but don't qualify for insurance through work either

Jessie helped one self-employed couple in their early 60s who now have health insurance for the first time in years, only paying $22/month for both of them. The wife later wrote that they were thrilled to have help navigating the process and that it was comforting to have the confidence that they were filling everything out correctly. And they were excited to finally have health insurance.

CvilleEnrolls quotes self-employedAnother person Jessie helped wrote: "My wife and I have had separate insurance policies because of her pre-existing condition. I found her a plan on the exchange with premiums that are about half the cost of her current plan and the coverage is much better. Based on my estimates of our current use of medical care, this new plan will save us close to $10,000 a year."

It is important to note that many people still have not benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, in part because Virginia has not expanded Medicaid. In addition, for those people with chronic illnesses requiring frequent doctor visits, they have found that office visit copays are unaffordable with the lowest premium plans. We will be sharing an article from the Charlottesville Free Clinic that addresses these concerns in our next post.

Posted by: Kim Connolly

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