By SARA ARTHURS
The deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is Dec. 15.
Here are some simple answers to a few questions that are bound to come up, provided by personnel from Blanchard Valley Health System:
Does Obamacare still exist?
Pat Beham, director of managed care for Blanchard Valley Health System, said some are confused by all the noise in the political world. But insurance signups for 2018 are going on now, and open enrollment continues through Dec. 15.
Allison Blankemeyer, the certified application counselor for Blanchard Valley Health System, said she hasnt heard from people who think that Obamacare no longer exists, but she has had to notify people that the signup period is shortened from past years.
Are there insurance providers in Hancock County?
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which had been the only carrier offering individual insurance plans on the health care marketplace (also called the exchange) in Hancock County, will no longer do so in 2018. However, two other insurance carriers, Medical Mutual of Ohio and Molina Health Care of Ohio, are offering plans.
Who is eligible to receive Obamacare?
Beham said one misconception people have is that this is for poor people. And its really across the board. People who are self-employed or work for small businesses, for example, might get insurance through Obamacare, she said.
How can I sign up?
You can sign up on your own online at healthcare.gov. Its also possible to call the marketplace directly, 24/7, at 800-318-2596. Area insurance agents can also help you. As a certified application counselor, Blankemeyer meets with clients by appointment. Call 419-889-5134 to schedule.
Blankemeyer, who had to go through 20 hours of training, said the work is rewarding and people are really grateful to be receiving help with health care coverage.
What information do I need?
Have ready the name, date of birth, Social Security number and income information for anyone in your household who needs insurance. Subsidies are tied to income.
How much will it cost?
Costs vary, but might not be as much as you think at first glance. Blankemeyer said a lot of people are shocked at the prices of the premiums, but many qualify for subsidies.
Beham, too, said if you look at the website you might see a very high premium, and you may not know if you qualify for a subsidy that will bring down the price.
What about Medicaid?
If someone starts signing up on the marketplace and it turns out they are eligible for Medicaid, the system will automatically send their information over.
You can sign up for Medicaid directly by contacting the Department of Job and Family Services.
Are my doctors in network?
Beham said this is a common question. Blanchard Valley Health System, including the hospital and medical practices owned by the health system, is in network for both Medical Mutual and Molina.
However, some area doctors offices might not be. So, Beham said, check with your doctors.
How has the Affordable Care Act changed the local health care picture?
Beham said people used to come to Caughman Health Center who had no health insurance at all.
Now that more people have insurance, they are less reluctant to seek care when they need it, she said. As a result, Beham has seen peoples health improve, as they have had access to primary care.
Its really important to get primary care, Beham said. Without it, chronic health conditions can become more serious and debilitating over time.
Certain preventive care has no copay under the law.
Beham said Obamacare has also helped the health system stretch its resources. For example, the hospital received a grant from the Community Foundation to provide diabetes classes. Because things like eye exams and diabetic test strips were now paid for by insurance, Blanchard Valley was able to use that money toward more educational programs.