By Jesse Wood
Oct. 23, 2013. High Country Community Health’s outreach and eligibility specialist Eric Schneider hosts another Q&A presentation to help community members navigate through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, which is the result of what is known as ObamaCare.
The presentation will be held at the Western Watauga Branch Library in Sugar Grove on Friday, Oct. 25, at 10 a.m.
Marketplace enrollment began on Oct. 1, and Schneider has been working around the clock, meeting with individuals and groups needing help with the marketplace eligibility, application and enrollment process. Schneider said he currently has a three-week backlog of appointments booked.
“There is no shortage of people coming in,” Schneider said.
High Country Community Health is a federally qualified health center that offers dental and medical care in Avery and Watauga counties on a sliding-fee scale based on income. While Schneider works primarily in Watauga County, Avery County has a bilingual outreach specialist named Dory Trimble, and Schneider commended Trimble for her work so far during the problematic beginnings of the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The “glitches” that have plagued the marketplace in its first three weeks have been splattered all over the news, and Schneider said those concerns aren’t overstated whatsoever.
“It’s not overstated. It’s been a consistent problem, but it’s one of those hit or miss things,” Schneider said, adding that he will be able to complete the application process and enroll someone one minute and the next, he can’t even get past the “create account” webpage.
He added that if the website is down during an appointment with a client, he is having to find other ways to help them out by providing information and determining tentative eligibility.
Enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. Health coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2014. Under ObamaCare, most people are required to have health insurance by Jan. 2014 or face a fine.
The marketplace is a “grouping” of qualified health plans that contain essential benefits, which may have been missing from previous health plans, Schneider said, adding that the marketplace offers an “apples to apples” comparison of health plans. The marketplace also contains a subsidy for those who buy insurance plans that have an income between 100 to 400 percent of the poverty line.
Schneider said that people who don’t have insurance; people who aren’t insured by their employer; people with pre-existing conditions who may have trouble getting prior insurance coverage; and small businesses are those who stand to benefit from the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Schneider has held three public workshops that have been well attended, and he expects the same for Friday’s presentation at the Western Branch Watauga Library in Sugar Grove.
He is also available by appointment to help small businesses.
“I am happy to do anything to help get the word out. A lot of people don’t know about this stuff. They don’t know about the individual responsibility requirement where most people will have to buy health insurance or face a fee,” Schneider said.
For more information or to reach Schneider, contact him at 828-773-7297 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. or email him at [email protected]