2013-11-20 / Front Page

Local navigators help sift through Affordable Care Act options

by Jazz Clark

Richard Constantino at Department of Health and Human Resources is primed and ready to help navigate county residents through applications for the National Affordable Care Act. Richard Constantino at Department of Health and Human Resources is primed and ready to help navigate county residents through applications for the National Affordable Care Act. Word is getting out as more people sign up for health care through the National Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, though many have wondered how to get assistance with the confusing sign-up process.

The local Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and Starting Points Community Partnership both have trained staff to assist county residents to enroll in health insurance plans under the new program.

In-person assister Richard Constantino at DHHR went through a week-long training session of roughly 60 hours, so he could better explain the affordable care system.

“Slowly but surely people are catching on,” said Constantino. “It started slow, but there is a definite interest in the program.”

His job is not to sell anything, he said, but to get people to come in and help guide them through the process.

He said there were a lot of glitches on healthcare.gov in the beginning, the website where people can register and apply for governmentsubsidized health plans. Once he tried to go through the application himself and found the process laborious, even with all his training.

Constantino said the best parts of the changes to health insurance laws are that people with pre-existing medical conditions cannot be denied health insurance and that an ill person pays the same rate as a perfectly healthy person in that same age group.

He would not describe the insurance as cheap, he said, but the plan is to bring insurance down for the masses and provide tax help for low to middle income people. Deductibles can still be substantial, but cost-reduction services could make out-ofpocket costs lower for qualified applicants.

Constantino said he’s helped five or six people navigate their way to insurance in the last few weeks and anticipates more people in the coming month.

Constantino said he can be reached at DHHR, phone number 304-258-1350, to schedule an appointment Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5 p.m.

Starting Points actually has two trained staff to aid people with applications for Medicaid: Sharon Abdelaal and Hannah Stewart. They help people in the lower income brackets get the new, expanded health insurance.

Linda, the very first person to sign up for affordable care at Starting Points, said that people need this program, especially those who can’t afford insurance. She preferred not to give her last name.

“So many older people go without medical care because it’s just so expensive,” Linda said. “I think it’s a good thing.”

Medicaid requirements are based on adjusted yearly income and aid is available to more people than ever before. People at higher poverty levels and even some males in a lower economic bracket can now qualify for Medicaid.

Starting Points focuses on Medicaid and not shopping through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

“Patience is the number one thing you need,” said Hannah Stewart. “The process takes some time, especially if you aren’t familiar with health insurance.”

The deadline for immediate eligibility is January 1.

“If you sign up January 1, your coverage will start that day,” Stuart said. “If you sign up after, it will take a little while for coverage to kick in.”

Stuart and Abdelaal said they have given out information to over 200 community members about the program.

“For low-income families, this is going to be an amazing opportunity,” said Stuart. “Some families have never been able to get or afford insurance before and this will be phenomenal for them.”

Call Starting Points at 304- 258-5600 to make an appointment.

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