By Jesse Wood
Sept. 17, 2013. High Country Community Health, a federally qualified health center that offers dental and medical care on a sliding-fee scale based on income, now has outreach and eligibility specialists to help people in Watauga and Avery counties navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace and learn about changes to health care laws as a result of the Affordable Care Act, frequently referred to as ObamaCare.
Eric Schneider was hired in August to primarily work with the interested public in Watauga County, and Avery County will feature a part-time specialist. The positions are funded through a grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, which also funds the health center.
Marketplace enrollment starts on Oct. 1 and 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.
Once enrollment goes live on Oct. 1, three companies will offer insurance through the exchange: BlueCross BlueShield, Coventry, and FirstCarolinaCare Insurance Co. Schneider mentioned that some states have as many as 15 companies participating in their respective marketplaces, adding that companies in North Carolina are taking the “wait-and-see” approach to see what “shakes out.”
“There are just so many unknowns with this,” Schneider said, adding that the hope is that more companies will participate in the state exchange, thus lowering costs through more competition.
In his new role, Schneider will hold presentations with a question-and-answer format in the coming weeks. His presentation will note the future changes as well as changes that have already occurred “to give context,” Schneider said.
- Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m. at the Watauga County Public Library in Boone
- Monday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. at the Western Watauga Branch Library in Sugar Grove
- Tuesday, Oct. 8, 4 p.m. at the Watauga County Public Library in Boone
- Friday, Oct. 25, 10 a.m. at the Western Watauga Branch Library in Sugar Grove
He is also available by appointment for one-on-one or small business sessions to test eligibility. However, he won’t be able to help with the application and enrollment process until after Oct. 1.
“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]
Also for more information, click to www.healthcare.gov.