Carpender: What are the top concerns you’re hearing about from residents?
Smith: People are most concerned with getting the health care they need as soon as possible. A lot of people don’t understand what the Affordable Care Act does. They hear the word Obamacare and it has a bad connotation. The ACA is a law that protects the individual – it’s not an insurance policy from the government. Providers that people are used to, like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Etna, now have protections for more people to have more coverage. We do a lot of work to clarify any confusion about the ACA.
Carpender: What has changed?
Smith: Medicaid has been expanded in Illinois, and even individuals with low incomes can obtain it. A lot of people aren’t aware they can receive tax credits from [insurance] premiums.
Carpender: What’s the advantage of going through the process with a navigator?
Smith: People can enroll on their own online but we’re here to assist if they have trouble with that process. All of our navigators are state and federally certified. The Health Care Marketplace is a central [online] location to compare insurance plans, like Kayak.com compares travel options. Instead of visiting individual websites, you can compare policies side-by-side.
Carpender: Did you enroll?
Smith: I purchased my own plan back in October. My group signed up during the initial website glitches and had to keep signing in to get through the process.
Carpender: What’s the enrollment process?
Smith: It’s fairly simple. People come in, bring their documents and sit down with a navigator who will take them to the getcoveredillinois.com website. They’ll use a screening tool to find out if they’re best suited for Medicaid or the Marketplace. Their options are laid out and they can click to see if a plan will fit their medical needs. The navigators go through the entire process with them and take away the confusion of any questions that stump the enrollee.
Carpender: How soon do they receive coverage?
Smith: It depends on if they get Medicaid or regular Marketplace coverage. They should be covered once they make the first premium payment. It’s effective the day they apply, but sometimes it takes weeks for the application to go through. Some insurance companies may cover them retroactively. Medicaid does take longer.
Carpender: How should people prepare for enrollment appointments?
Smith: Be patient and have all their information with them. It doesn’t cost anything. They’ll need proof of residency and a W-2 or tax form to show their income. It takes between 30 minutes to an hour to sign up.
Carpender: How are people reacting to enrollment?
Smith: A lot of people have never had insurance due to pre-existing conditions or it’s been too expensive. Now new options are available, and they have the opportunity to come in and get covered. It feels great to help people. Many are grateful and it’s very touching. Some people get very emotional – I’ve seen a couple cry.
Carpender: What happens to people who don’t enroll?
Smith: The deadline to sign up is March 31 when the Marketplace closes, and three months after that, uninsured people are subject to be charged a penalty.
Health care enrollment appointments
When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 14 and Saturday, March 15
Where: Macy’s wing of Gurnee Mills, 6170 W. Grand Avenue, Gurnee
Info: Free appointments are available and can be made by calling 847-377-4999. Walk-up appointments will also be available.
For information, visit EnrollLakeCounty.com or GetcoveredIllinois.gov/events.